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Sunderland hit back twice to draw at Watford

Watford v Sunderland – Sky Bet Championship – Vicarage Road
(Image credit: Steven Paston)

Sunderland substitute Jewison Bennette earned his side a 2-2 draw at Watford with an 87th-minute equaliser at Vicarage Road.

It was the second time in the contest that Tony Mowbray’s side had come from behind.

With the game ebbing away from the Wearsiders, Patrick Roberts clipped over a cross that evaded the Watford central defenders and dropped at the feet of Bennette, who swivelled and turned home to square a match of errors and curious goals.

Such a prospect did not look likely in a dour opening half-hour.

Without the injured Ross Stewart, Mowbray had decided against trying to play a false number nine and instead pressed four players up as a false forward line up against the Watford rearguard.

Elliot Embleton and Alex Pritchard occupied the central roles, while Patrick Roberts and Jack Clarke kept the home full-backs fully occupied in their own half, denying them the freedom to burst forward on the overlap.

Watford were left to send over a series of crosses that were delivered by players who should have been in the area to receive them, which played into the aerial dominance of Sunderland central defender Danny Batth in particular.

It all added up to a contest that was tactically fascinating but low on goalmouth action apart from a Lynden Gooch shot that drifted wide and a Joao Pedro effort that was comfortably held by Anthony Patterson.

Then, out of nowhere, Colombian teenager Yaser Asprilla curled a clever ball into space on the left for Hassane Kamara to chase. The full-back’s cross was shovelled into the path of Keinan Davis by Sunderland goalkeeper Patterson, leaving the on-loan Aston Villa striker the easiest of tap-ins on his first Watford start.

If that goal came as a surprise, it was nothing compared to the Sunderland equaliser on the stroke of half-time.

A ball across the box found Clarke, who was struggling to keep his feet to force in a shot when Aji Alese took over and slid it under the advancing Daniel Bachmann.

Hamza Choudhury appeared to clear the ball off the line, only for the watch of referee John Busby to buzz and alert everyone inside Vicarage Road that goal-line technology had judged the ball to found the net.

The second half began with almost total Watford domination. Pedro was at the heart of most of it, slipping an acute pass into the path of Asprilla, who shot tamely at Patterson.

It then required Batth to throw his body in the way of a Davis shot and referee Busby to ignore Watford’s penalty appeals when Kamara’s cross appeared to catch the outstretched arm of Gooch.

The home side’s pressure eventually told just past the hour. Pedro’s free-kick was headed back by William Troost-Ekong. Sunderland defender Luke O’Nien then outjumped Kortney Hause only to head straight into his own net.

The visitors roused themselves once more, but were thwarted by an offside flag after Clarke had turned home a cross from substitute Amad Diallo.

Their best chance fell to another replacement, Leon Dajaku, seven minutes from time when he raced clear only to drag his mistimed shot wide of the far post.

That was until Benette finally levelled four minutes later.

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