- Watford’s Mileta Rajovic and Ryan Andrews scored in stoppage-time victory
- Lee Buchanan was sent off for the visitors for a second yellow at Vicarage Road
- Listen to the latest episode of the Mail Sport podcast ” Everything starts “
When Watford beat QPR 4-0 to start their Championship season in resounding fashion – a result which led Hoops boss Gareth Ainsworth to proclaim them promotion favorites – they wouldn’t have expected to wait six weeks to their next victory.
But Valérien Ismael will breathe a sigh of relief on Saturday night after a dramatic 2-0 win over 10-man Birmingham thanks to a superb injury-time header from Danish striker Mileta Rajovic, before academy graduate Ryan Andrews scores his first goal for the club.
Rajovic has scored three goals in just two starts since his move from Swedish club Kalmar last month after his looping header from Yaser Asprilla’s cross looped over John Ruddy to send Hornets fans into delirium and end the Birmingham’s undefeated start to the season.
Things improved further moments later when a deflected effort from Andrews saw the Hornets jump into the top half of the Championship after an impressive display that lacked the all-important quality to the death.
For the Blues, they should not be discouraged after what had been a dream opening month. Seemingly abandoned in the league’s doldrums for years, plagued by financial and off-field problems, they have been given a new lease of life since being taken over by American investors, including NFL legend Tom Brady.
Watford’s Edo Kayembe and Birmingham’s Ivan Sunjic had words during Championship clash
Blues boss John Eustace – a former Watford captain who this week walked away from his ties to the Rangers job – has transformed a previously stale team into a dynamic young team that remains undefeated.
The feel-good factor was evident as they almost had a dream start. Within 40 seconds, nomadic Oliver Burke – making his debut for what is now his 10th club – fed Jay Stansfield, on loan from Fulham, who forced Daniel Bachmann into a smart save.
A familiar pattern then began to develop as the hosts continued to dominate possession with Brazilian wonderkid Matheus Martins forcing Ruddy to make a good save from a free kick.
Watford centre-back Ryan Porteous was marking Harry Kane for Scotland just a few days ago, and he made an impact in the opposition box this time, but saw an effort crash against the post.
Ismael is now on his third job in English football after short spells at Barnsley and West Brom when ‘Val Ball’ became synonymous with aggressive, high-intensity, direct play, but this version couldn’t be more different.
The hosts showed the patient preparation style they develop, but the visitors remained solid, before attempting to break the rhythm.
Ismael used his substitutes early on as they continued to control the clash, but it was the brilliant Stansfield who almost delivered a punch as a stunning turn and curling effort clipped the outside from the post with Bachmann beaten.
And Watford had their skipper to thank who produced a superb double save from Scott Hogan from close range before Birmingham left-back Lee Buchanan received a second yellow card in the 87th minute.
He was applauded off the field by the traveling supporters in anticipation of what appeared to be a hard-earned point, but Watford’s injury-time exploits meant they had to curse their luck on the way back to the West Midlands.
Birmingham’s Lee Buchanan (left) was sent off late for a second bookable offense
Watford (4-1-2-3): Bachmann © 7.5; Ngakia 7 (Andrews 77), Porteous 7, Hoedt 7, Morris 6 (Lewis 45, 7); Sierralta 6.5; Louza 7 Dele-Bashiru 7 (Chakveatadze 65, 6.5); Ince 6 (Asprilla 56, 7), Rajovic 7.5, Martins 7 (Kone 65, 7)
Unused substitutes: Hamer (GK), Livermore, Pollock, Kayembe
Coach: Valérien Ismaël 7
Scorers: Rajovic 90+1, Andrews 90+6
Birmingham City (4-2-3-1): Ruddy 6.5; Drameh 7, Sanderson © 6.5, Long 6.5, Buchanan 5; Bielik 7, Sunjic 6.5; Burke 6 (Bacuna 71, 5.5), Stansfield 7.5 (Longelo 87), Anderson 6 (Miyoshi 67, 6); Hogan 6.5 (James 87)
Unused substitutes: Etheridge (GK); Roberts, Gardner, Khela, Aiwu
Manager: John Eustache 7
Reserved: Drameh, Bielik, Stansfield, Sunjic
Referee: Keith Stroud 6