Hughton bemused by Brighton performance in loss at Watford

Roberto Pereyra of Watford

Roberto Pereyra’s first goal was a crisp volley after he was left unmarked at a corner

Brighton manager Chris Hughton said he was left to “wonder what happened” after his side were comfortably beaten by Watford at Vicarage Road.

The Hornets’ Argentine midfielder Roberto Pereyra scored both goals – the first a sweet volley 10 minutes before the break, after he was left unmarked from a Jose Holebas corner.

Shortly after half-time the 27-year-old former Juventus man got his second after driving into the area and curling the ball beyond a helpless Mat Ryan from a tight angle.

“Sometimes you wonder what happened – pre-season was fine. We have some new signings but the team that played today was the same as last season, so no excuses,” added Hughton.

The Seagulls, who finished last season a point and a place behind Watford in 15th, bought on club record signing Alireza Jahanbakhsh and fellow summer signing Yves Bissouma, but Hornets goalkeeper Ben Foster was rarely troubled.

The visitors – hampered by the loss of captain Bruno, who was forced off early on by what appeared to be a hamstring injury – failed to muster a single effort on target and Watford were worthy winners.

“It troubles me when any opposition keeper has as easy a day as Ben Foster had,” said Hughton. “We didn’t deserve anything from today.

“We’ve got work to do. A disappointing result but more so a disappointing performance.”

Pereyra provides a spark

It is only the first game of the season, but Watford boss Javi Gracia will surely be deeply satisfied with the way his side controlled this match throughout.

The Spaniard, appointed late in January after the sacking of predecessor Marco Silva, is the 10th manager to work for Watford under the Pozzo family since 2012.

His activity in the summer transfer window was solid, if not spectacular, but he also lost forward Richarlison to Everton for a fee reported to be worth as much as £50m.

Javi Gracia of Watford<!–

Javi Gracia is at the start of his first full season in charge of Watford

And this display was a welcome sign for Hornets supporters that their side can still pack a punch – the combination of Holebas and Pereyra a case in point.

Watford fielded a settled team, with the only debutant being 35-year-old keeper Foster, who had two loan spells at Vicarage Road between 2005 and 2007 while at Manchester United.

Pundits and BBC Sport readers expect the Hertfordshire club to struggle to avoid the drop, but this performance is an indication that they are up for the fight.

Seagulls stutter

Brighton’s pragmatic summer activity had drawn praise – the Seagulls have kept the core of the squad which secured survival last season, while finding perceived value in their transfer dealings.

They made Iran’s Jahanbakhsh – the top scorer in the Dutch Eredivisie last season – their club record signing, alongside bringing in a mix of youth and experience in the likes of 30-year-old Nigeria defender Leon Balogun and 21-year-old Mali midfielder Yves Bissouma from Lille.

Like Watford, manager Hughton’s starting XI featured just one new face in the form of left-back Bernardo, but unlike their hosts, the old guard were unable to impress.

Whether Brighton will now look to use their new recruits to shake up their typical 4-4-1-1 shape in the coming weeks remains to be seen, but this display was a cause for concern.

And it will not get any easier, with back-to-back games against Manchester United and Liverpool to come.

Glenn Murray infographic<!–

Brighton’s attacking focal point Glenn Murray only had two touches of the ball in Watford’s 18-yard area

Foster second only to Rooney – stats

  • Watford are unbeaten in their past 12 opening games to a league season (W6 D6), with their last defeat coming against Everton in August 2006.
  • Brighton are winless in their past 14 Premier League away games (W0 D4 L10), the longest current such run in the division.
  • Watford have lost only one of their past nine Premier League matches at Vicarage Road (W5 D3).
  • Roberto Pereyra has had a hand in each of Watford’s past six Premier League goals, scoring five and assisting one.
  • Ben Foster made his first Premier League appearance for Watford since 13 May 2007 vs Newcastle (4,108 days ago) – the second-longest gap between two games for a single team in the competition after Wayne Rooney for Everton (4,837 days).

Man of the match – Roberto Pereyra (Watford)

Roberto Pereyra of Watford<!–

Roberto Pereyra’s brace means the Argentine has scored five Premier League goals in his past five games at Vicarage Road, this after netting just three in his previous 19

They thought we’d struggle without Richarlison – what they said

Watford manager Javi Gracia:

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Gracia praises Watford’s attitude in Brighton win

“I’m very happy with the result, but happier with the way we got it. They didn’t have any shots on target or create any chances.

“The team showed a good reaction after losing the ball and I am very happy for them.”

Watford captain Troy Deeney:

“He’s not a bad player, he [Pereyra] played in the Champions League final. People think we would fall apart because Richarlison left, [but] this is a great squad. We’ve got Nathaniel Chalobah and Gerard Deulofeu to come back.

“Credit to Ben Foster too, his kicking was sensational and kept us out of trouble. We’ve been working on our intensity and it has been working and that’s why I look so skinny.”

Brighton manager Chris Hughton:

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Brighton were second best – Hughton

“I thought we were second best, Watford were better in most departments.

“There were periods we could create something and hold the ball, but overall we did not show enough to get something from the game.”

What’s next?

Watford’s first away trip of the season sees the Hornets travel to Burnley on Sunday, 19 August (13:30 BST).

Later the same day, Brighton host Manchester United at the Amex Stadium (16:00 BST).

Live Text

Match ends, Watford 2, Brighton and Hove Albion 0.

Second Half ends, Watford 2, Brighton and Hove Albion 0.

Foul by Troy Deeney (Watford).

Yves Bissouma (Brighton and Hove Albion) wins a free kick in the defensive half.

Corner, Watford. Conceded by Gaëtan Bong.

Foul by Abdoulaye Doucouré (Watford).

Yves Bissouma (Brighton and Hove Albion) wins a free kick in the defensive half.

José Holebas (Watford) wins a free kick on the left wing.

Foul by Yves Bissouma (Brighton and Hove Albion).

Substitution, Watford. Kiko Femenía replaces Roberto Pereyra.

Foul by Etienne Capoue (Watford).

Glenn Murray (Brighton and Hove Albion) wins a free kick in the defensive half.

Attempt missed. Etienne Capoue (Watford) left footed shot from outside the box is high and wide to the left. Assisted by Isaac Success.

Attempt blocked. Daryl Janmaat (Watford) right footed shot from the right side of the box is blocked. Assisted by Isaac Success.

Corner, Watford. Conceded by Glenn Murray.

Corner, Watford. Conceded by Glenn Murray.

Bernardo (Brighton and Hove Albion) is shown the yellow card for a bad foul.

Isaac Success (Watford) wins a free kick on the left wing.

Foul by Bernardo (Brighton and Hove Albion).

Substitution, Watford. Ken Sema replaces Will Hughes.

Will Hughes (Watford) wins a free kick in the defensive half.

Foul by Davy Pröpper (Brighton and Hove Albion).

Etienne Capoue (Watford) wins a free kick in the defensive half.

Foul by Alireza Jahanbakhsh (Brighton and Hove Albion).

Isaac Success (Watford) wins a free kick on the left wing.

Foul by Lewis Dunk (Brighton and Hove Albion).

Attempt missed. Davy Pröpper (Brighton and Hove Albion) header from the left side of the six yard box is high and wide to the left. Assisted by Alireza Jahanbakhsh with a cross following a corner.

Corner, Brighton and Hove Albion. Conceded by Daryl Janmaat.

Christian Kabasele (Watford) wins a free kick in the defensive half.

Foul by Yves Bissouma (Brighton and Hove Albion).

Attempt saved. Etienne Capoue (Watford) right footed shot from outside the box is saved in the centre of the goal.

Substitution, Watford. Isaac Success replaces Andre Gray.

Troy Deeney (Watford) wins a free kick in the attacking half.

Foul by Shane Duffy (Brighton and Hove Albion).

José Holebas (Watford) is shown the yellow card for a bad foul.

Foul by José Holebas (Watford).

Glenn Murray (Brighton and Hove Albion) wins a free kick on the right wing.

Substitution, Brighton and Hove Albion. Alireza Jahanbakhsh replaces Solly March.

Attempt missed. Yves Bissouma (Brighton and Hove Albion) right footed shot from the centre of the box is close, but misses to the left. Assisted by Solly March.

Attempt missed. Troy Deeney (Watford) right footed shot from outside the box misses to the left. Assisted by Abdoulaye Doucouré with a headed pass.

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