Watford 1-0 Sheffield United: Rob Edwards’ first game with relegated Hornets ends in narrow win

Watford 1-0 Sheffield United: Rob Edwards’ first game with relegated Hornets ends in narrow win thanks to Joao Pedro’s goal against the Blades at Vicarage Road

Clubs in the Championship have the freedom of choice over whether to take the knee before kick-off and it’s been that way for some time now.

As the new season began here, Watford continued with the gesture but Sheffield United’s players remained standing.

By the end of the night, it was the home side who’d showed why they deserve to be considered among the promotion favourites thanks to Joao Pedro’s winner from a lightning counter-attack.

Watford showed why they deserve to be considered among the promotion favourites with a 1-0 win against Sheffield United on the first day of their season thanks to Joao Pedro’s fine finish

The Brazilian scored the game's only goal on the counter-attack at Vicarage Road on Monday

The Brazilian scored the game’s only goal on the counter-attack at Vicarage Road on Monday

Match Facts: Watford vs Sheffield United 

Watford (3-4-3): Bachmann; Kabasele, Sierralta, Cathcart; Sema, Cleverley, Kayembe, Kamara; Sarr (Manaj 81), Joao Pedro (Gosling 87), Dennis.

Subs not used: Hamer; Ngakia, Troost-Ekong, Asprilla, Bayo.

Goals: Joao Pedro 56.

Yellow cards: Sierralta 25, Cleverley 45+2, Pedro 49, Kamara 90+5.

Manager: Rob Edwards.

Sheffield United (3-5-2): Foderingham; Clark (Khadra 68), Egan, Norrington-Davies; Baldock, Norwood (Osborn 68), Berge, Fleck, Stevens (Lowe 55); Jebbison (Brewster 68), Ndiaye (Sharp 78).

Subs not used: Amissah; Gordon.

Yellow cards: Clark 14, Fleck 24, Berge 90+2.

Manager: Paul Heckingbottom.

 

The 56th-minute breakthrough stemmed from a Blades corner. John Fleck’s shot was blocked after referee Josh Smith almost got in the way and ricocheted out to Hassane Kamara.

With yellow shirts streaming forward, his cross-field pass initially looked inadequate but somehow made it out to Ismaila Sarr on the right via Emmanuel Dennis.

All Sarr had to do was square for Pedro in the middle to sweep home with the United defence left flat-footed as they chased back from their own set-piece in vain.

Watford deserved the three points. Back in the second-tier after another failed campaign in the Premier League, they’d been through another summer of upheaval.

But even though many established names departed, they retain an attack that looks a step above much of this division.

Whether Sarr and Dennis, on the market for a combined £50million, remain beyond deadline day remains to be seen, but Watford will make full use of them while they’re here.

The summer saw that familiar Watford ritual of a managerial change with Rob Edwards, fresh from guiding Forest Green Rovers into League One, succeeding ex-England manager Roy Hodgson following relegation.

Edwards, 39, was given a warm hand by Vicarage Road before kick-off. He opted to start summer arrivals Rey Manaj and Vakoun Bayo among the substitutes, while more recent signing from Villarreal Mario Gaspar lacked the fitness levels to make the squad.

The Hornets carved out the first opportunity as Dennis and Sarr connected down the left. Dennis side-footed a through pass into Sarr, who fired into the side netting.

Watford superfan Sir Elton John had implored those in yellow to show ‘more f**king passion’ this season when he performed here on Sunday night and a first-half skirmish suggested the players had listened.

New Watford manager Rob Edwards (pictured) won his first match in charge of the London side

New Watford manager Rob Edwards (pictured) won his first match in charge of the London side

A shoving match between Watford captain Tom Cleverley and United’s Iliman Ndiaye escalated and resulted in Francisco Sierralta and John Fleck squaring up and both receiving yellows.

The Blades, so eager to improve on their fifth-place finish last season, looked dangerous on the break.

Sander Berge tested Watford keeper Daniel Bachmann early on and Ndiaye should have scored when Daniel Jebbison’s flick sent him clear and he outmuscled Kamara.

Jebbison forced Bachmann into a fingertip save on the stroke of half-time with a first-time dink from the edge of the box.

After Pedro’s opener, Watford worked another great shooting position only for the Brazilian to get in the way as Dennis prepared to shoot. 

Read more at DailyMail.co.uk

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