Watford beat Crystal Palace at Vicarage Road to maintain their perfect start to the season and move behind Liverpool on goal difference at the top of the table.
Roberto Pereyra scored his third goal in as many Premier League games with an exquisite curling effort before Jose Holebas added a seemingly unintentional second from outside the area in a resurgent second-half display.
Watford had been fortunate to be level at the interval, veteran goalkeeper Ben Foster pulling off two reflex saves to deny Christian Benteke and James McArthur early on.
Palace threatened in the opening exchanges despite their talisman Wilfried Zaha being the victim of a fierce tackle from Etienne Capoue, for which the Watford midfielder was fortunate to receive only a booking.
Zaha did pull a goal back for the visitors late on, beating his marker to drill the ball through Foster’s legs, but Watford withstood the fightback to claim all three points.
Palace miss chances to take the lead
Palace had two excellent opportunities to take an early lead. Benteke should have done better in the 12th minute when he rose highest to meet Andros Townsend’s cross in the six-yard box, but the Belgian striker headed at Foster.
Minutes later, McArthur found himself one-on-one with the former England goalkeeper, but the midfielder’s effort was well saved.
Watford had clearly focused on stopping Zaha, but in the fourth minute Capoue crossed a line when he appeared to stamp on the Ivory Coast international’s Achilles. On another day Capoue might not have been on the pitch long enough to assist in Pereyra’s opening goal.
Zaha had a fairly quiet game after that incident, although he did burst into life to give the Eagles hope of a point in the final 15 minutes, his strike making him the club’s all-time highest goalscorer in the Premier League with 24.
Holebas shines in the rain
Holebas’ performance epitomised Watford’s impressive early season form.
Foster was crucial in keeping Palace at bay in the first half, but Holebas was equally influential.
When McArthur played a neat one-two with Benteke and ran into the hosts’ box, Holebas was on hand to slide in and nick the ball away as the Palace player was poised to shoot.
And the defender ultimately proved the difference at the other end, if rather fortuitously, admitting to Sky Sports afterwards that it was an attempted cross that deceived Palace goalkeeper Wayne Hennessey and looped into the corner.
Watford’s three wins have come against Brighton, Burnley and Crystal Palace, and clearly they will face tougher challenges, but with the work ethic and determination on show by Holebas and his team-mates today, Javi Gracia’s men have every prospect of a successful season.
Man of the match – Roberto Pereyra (Watford)
More to follow.