Newcastle 1-1 Watford: Fabian Schar grabs a point for hosts after cancelling out early Will Hughes opener as both sides waste chances to snatch victory
- Watford got off to the perfect start at St James’ Park through a Will Hughes strike
- The hosts levelled before the break when Fabien Schar fired home a half-volley
- Replays suggested it should have been disallowed for an Isaac Hayden handball
- Steve Bruce is still waiting for his first home win as Newcastle manager
It was a first point of the season – and one which should keep Javi Gracia in a job, at least for now – but the Watford boss will bemoan the inconsistency of VAR after it failed to spot a handball prior to Newcastle’s equalising goal.
The visitors were leading thanks to Will Hughes’ early strike and in control when the Magpies levelled four minutes before the break.
All seemed well with Fabian Schar’s close-range finish and there was no suggestion of an infringement as play restarted.
Fabian Schar fires home on the stroke of half-time to pull Newcastle level at St James’ Park
The Switzerland international is congratulated by his team-mates after his first of the season
Newcastle United (3-4-2-1): Dubravka 6; Schar 7 (Fernandez 85), Lascelles 6.5, Dummett 6.5; Krafth 6 (Manquillo 78, 6), S Longstaff 6, Hayden 6, Willems 7.5; Almiron 5, Atsu 5.5 (Muto 82); Joelinton 6
Subs: Darlow, Clark, Ki, Shelvey
Scorers: Schar 41
Bookings: Hayden, Dummett
Watford (3-4-2-1): Foster 7; Dawson 6, Kabasele 6.5, Cathcart 6; Janmaat 6, Cleverley 7, Doucoure 6.5 (Chalobah 71, 6), Femenia 5.5; Pereyra 6, Hughes 7 (Success 71, 6); Gray 6 (Deulofeu 82)
Subs: Gomes, Welbeck, Masina, Sarr Scorers: Hughes 2
Bookings: Doucoure, Dawson
Referee: G Scott 6
Man of the Match: Willems
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However, replays later showed the ball being diverted into the path of Schar via the hand of team-mate Isaac Hayden, who had jumped to challenge for Emil Krafth’s cross with defender Craig Dawson.
The incident had echoes of Manchester City’s disallowed goal versus Spurs a fortnight ago when the ball struck Aymeric Laporte’s hand before Gabriel Jesus scored what he thought was the winner, only for VAR to intervene.
For Newcastle head coach Steve Bruce it was a slice of good luck on a day when his team started poorly, could have won it in the second half but were then relieved to emerge with a point after some late visiting pressure.
They were still filing into the Gallowgate End when Watford took the lead inside 78 seconds. There was more than an element of good fortune as Tom Cleverley’s shot clattered into two defenders before rolling into the path of Hughes, who gratefully tucked home from six yards.
Will Hughes opens the scoring inside the opening two minutes as he beats Martin Dubravka
The former England Under 21 international celebrates with Tom Cleverley and Daryl Janmaat
Cleverley, though, had been afforded too much space 20 yards from goal and that defensive sloppiness remained a feature of a uninspiring first half from the hosts.
They were lucky to be trailing by just one come their equalising goal. Watford winger Kiko Femenia had curled over from 18 yards and Andre Gray screwed wide when closer to goal and in a position from which he would expect to score.
Watford, having enjoyed the better of the opening half, came out after the break with little of their earlier intent. ‘We want a sub,’ cried the visiting fans from up high, but Gracia was not moved.
On the field his team weren’t doing too much moving either. On two occasions before the hour Newcastle spurned chances to pull clear, first when Schar headed wide when unmarked six yards out and then when Almiron scuffed into a defender having been picked out by Atsu on the penalty spot.
Javi Gracia probably saved his job with the point but was not happy with all the refereeing
There were yet more empty seats at St James’ Park as some fans continued to stay away
Hayden was then denied by the fingertips of Ben Foster as he brushed the midfielder’s rising drive over the crossbar.
But that home dominance soon faded and they needed Martin Dubravka to preserve their point late on, the goalkeeper paddling clear a header from Isaac Success that had seemed destined for the bottom corner.
Dubravka again had to be on guard to thwart Roberto Pereyra after Watford cut through with ease and the forward took aim with a vicious blast from 20 yards.
Steve Bruce was happy with the performance but is still awaiting his first home win