by Callum Ellis
A SCINTILLATING performance from former Barcelona man Gerard Deulofeu helped Watford on their way to a 5-1 victory at the Cardiff City Stadium.
The Hornets left the hosts depleted as a hat-trick from Deulofeu and a brace from captain Troy Deeney capped off a night to forget for Neil Warnock’s men.
Warnock made three changes from the Bluebirds’ dramatic victory over Southampton last time out, opting to bring in skipper Sean Morrison after a spell on the sidelines.
Leandro Bacuna and Josh Murphy also came in as Aron Gunnarsson and Bobby Decordova-Reid both dropped to the bench, while Lee Peltier was omitted from the matchday squad.
Making his first start for the home side, the January addition Bacuna fancied his chances early on but saw his strike hit the back of Callum Paterson, failing to trouble Watford goalkeeper Ben Foster.
Dutch international Daryl Janmaat also paved open an effort that he should have really done better with. The defender combined well with Deeney before blasting over the crossbar in the opening stages.
Cardiff’s best chance of the first half fell to striker Omaur Niasse. Callum Paterson drifted inside and flicked a ball into the path of the Everton loanee who was left one-on-one against Foster, but saw his shot denied by the oustreched goalkeeper from close range.
Watford broke the dead-lock inside the 19th minute through Deulofeu. After Deeney did well on the edge of the area, the ball fell kindly for the Spaniard and he picked his spot to fire the visitors ahead with a low effort.
But the biggest talking point came with minutes remaining before the interval after Murphy went down under the challenge of Janmaat inside the penalty area. Despite the protests from the home players and supporters, referee Simon Hooper waved away the appeals for a spot-kick, leaving a furious Warnock with his hands on his head.
Deulofeu was proving to be a real handful and added his second of the evening with a slick counter-attack just after the hour-mark. He raced past Bruno Manga on the half-way line to leave himself one-on-one with Etheridge, keeping his composure to round the goalkeeper and double his side’s advantage.
Two minutes after the restart was all it took before the Bluebirds were picking the ball out of their net again. Etienne Capoue slipped Deulofeu through on goal to grab his hat-trick with a cheeky chip, leaving Etheridge helpless.
Deulofeu turned provider to further rub salt in the home side’s wounds, unselfishly putting the ball on a plate for Deeney to slam home Watford’s fourth.
Sol Bamba prodded home a corner to grab a consolation goal with eight minutes remaining, but it was Deeney who dispatched Will Hughes’ cutback in stoppage time to add to Cardiff’s relegation troubles.
Cardiff City: Etheridge, Bennett, Morrison, Manga, Arter, Ralls (Mendez-Laing 67’), Murphy (Hoilett 56’), Paterson, Bacuna, Bamba, Niasse (Zohore 71’).
Subs not used: Smithies, Decordova-Reid, Gunnarsson, Cunningham.
Watford: Foster, Janmatt, Deulofeu (Gray 86’), Deeney, Masina, Catchcart, Doucoure, Hughes, Capoue (Cleverley 79’), Pereyra (Quina 71’).
Subs not used: Gomes, Britos, Sema, Navarro.
- Goals – Deulofeu (18′, 61′, 63′), Deeney (73′, 90+1′), Bamba (82′)
- Yellow cards – Capoue (30’), Pereyra (55’), Paterson (85’)