Watch: Cardiff claim victory at Watford thanks to brilliant Josh Bowler strike
A stunning Josh Bowler strike two minutes before half-time gave Cardiff a 1-0 victory over Watford at Vicarage Road.
Bowler held off one Watford player, cut inside another and sent a delightful curler beyond the outstretched hand of Ben Hamer and into the far corner.
The result means that in the past 14 meetings between these teams, only two have been won by the home side.
While Erol Bulut’s Cardiff looked assured throughout, Watford are beginning to look like a team lacking the attacking flair to force their way into the Championship play-off positions.
The match gathered momentum as the first half progressed. After a quiet opening 20 minutes, 19-year-old full-back Ryan Andrews almost sliced the perfect pass through the Cardiff defence only for Vakoun Bayo to be squeezed out of room.
At the other end, Bowler thudded a shot into the advertising hoardings in what was effectively a sighter for his fine strike later in the half.
Andrews then brought a full-length save out of Cardiff goalkeeper Jak Alnwick before Watford’s patient approach almost earned its reward in the 27th minute.
Ismael Kone sent in a diagonal cross which was headed back across the area by Jamal Lewis for Yaser Asprilla to force Alnwick into a save with his legs.
The impressive Andrews then took it upon himself to try and give his side the lead six minutes before the interval, opening up his body to attempt a driven lob over Alnwick, which the keeper managed to tip over the bar.
The opening goal arrived three minutes later with Bowler’s superb effort.
🏴 Goal: Josh Bowler | Watford 0-1 Cardiff City pic.twitter.com/3moDJj1uIM
— FootColic ⚽️ (@FootColic) February 3, 2024
Cardiff had been largely passive in the first period, but they began the second forcing Watford back as they searched for a second goal.
Rubin Colwill was always ready to run at defenders, with one forcing a free-kick from which Perry Ng curled narrowly wide.
Watford, by contrast, had lost any first-half impetus. That was until a Lewis cross just before the hour was steered against the outside of the post by Kone.
Sensing the moment, Watford manager Valerien Ismael made a triple substitution and pressure increased on the Cardiff goal in the final half-hour.
Asprilla and substitute Emmanuel Dennis shot over the crossbar, Wesley Hoedt saw an effort deflected into the side netting while Tom Dele-Bashiru was denied by a flying Alnwick save.
A succession of goalmouth scrambles preceded the final whistle which was greeted by a chorus of boos from home supporters as Cardiff held on.
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