Manager hails Cabango as he wins Swansea tie in freak circumstances
Swansea manager Russell Martin hailed Ben Cabango for popping up with a rare goal against Watford after freak circumstances extended the fixture by 20 minutes.
Cabango headed home in the eighth minute of time added on after play had been stopped for almost 10 minutes near the end of normal time when the officials’ communication equipment failed.
“I’m so pleased for him,” he said. “Ben should have had a goal before now but it was a brilliant header. He is a warrior who is starting to develop other traits and if he scores more goals it will be all the better for us.”
Martin was also happy with the way referee Tim Robinson and his officials handled difficult circumstances.
“I thought they dealt with it really well,” he said. “They communicated it really well, it was not an easy situation for them. Our message to the players was to stay brave.”
Watford were convinced they should have had a penalty for handball right at the end and surrounded first referee Robinson and then a linesman.
“It was a push on our player in the melee,” Martin said. “I thought the referee did well to spot that. We managed the game brilliantly.”
Ismaila Sarr had fired Watford ahead but Olivier Ntcham levelled after half-time to lay the foundations for the delayed celebrations.
Bilic, the former West Ham and West Brom manager, had enjoyed a 4-0 victory at Stoke on Sunday in his first game as Rob Edwards’ successor.
Swansea made the livelier start but Ntcham, restored to the side after a goal from the bench in Saturday’s 3-2 win at West Brom, sliced wide after his free-kick had bounced off the wall.
Ntcham was then felled by a clearance straight into his face, with play stopped for several minutes so he could get treatment.
Watford found it impossible to string meaningful passes together in the opening exchanges, surrendering possession under the lightest of pressure.
Finally Keinan Davis, the on-loan Aston Villa striker, gave the home fans something to shout about by finding space on the left of the box, but Swansea goalkeeper Steven Benda was able to parry his low drive.
The improvement was instant for Bilic’s side as Sarr slotted them into a 34th-minute lead. Davis fed Ken Sema on the left of the box and his touch bamboozled Kyle Naughton. Sema’s ball across the box was despatched cleanly by Sarr ahead of his marker for a 28th goal in his 100th game for Watford.
Swansea thought they had equalised three minutes before the break when Watford goalkeeper Daniel Bachmann spilled Matt Grimes’ free-kick but Michael Obafemi was offside when he converted the rebound.
Russell Martin’s visitors had Nathan Wood to thank seconds later when Yaser Asprilla robbed Naughton and rounded Benda only to see his shot blocked on the line.
Ntcham saw a shot deflected behind early in the second period as Swansea sought a route back into the game once more.
And exactly the same combination saw them draw level in the 52nd minute when Grimes surged forward and found the former Celtic forward in space for a shot that went in off Hornets defender Christian Kabasele.
Benda saved Swansea with 20 minutes to go with a smart block to deny Hassane Kamara from close range after Sarr’s pass had bounced to the left-back. Davis headed wide soon after as Watford kept up the pressure.
With under 10 minutes remaining of normal time, the game was halted when the officials realised their communication equipment was not working.
Play eventually resumed and it was Swansea who ended up celebrating when Cabango planted a free header from Manning’s free-kick past Bachmann in the eighth minute of added time.
There was still time for controversy when Watford players, convinced they should have had a penalty, surrounded first Robinson and then a linesman, but their appeals were unsuccessful.
Slaven Bilic refused to blame the freak circumstances in his first home game as Watford manager.
“It is a situation that doesn’t happen very often, I don’t want to say it was the reason we lost the game, I think it affected both teams,” said Bilic, who confirmed he intended to bring in long-time lieutenant Julian Dicks as his number two.
Bilic lamented injuries to defenders Mario Gaspar and Francisco Sierralta, both to groin problems, for Cabango not being picked up from Ryan Manning’s free-kick.
“We were short of players anyway and now we have more injuries,” he said. “The whole defensive line was not a normal one. It should not have happened anyway. A lot of goals come from set-pieces but the guy was alone in the middle, it is very hard to accept it.
“You can’t blame the players who came on but we lost the shape we had in the first half.”
“I expected us to be more brave,” added Bilic, who had seen his side win 4-0 at Stoke in his first game in charge on Sunday.
“We did not start on the front foot, not confident enough but I’m quite pleased with the way we played. We had another big chance to go 2-0 up. They didn’t create a lot of chances – we created more.”
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