Watford boss Rob Edwards hailed a “magnificent” performance from goalkeeper Daniel Bachmann after the 10-man Hornets held off Burnley to move top of the Sky Bet Championship.
Tom Cleverley scored the only goal of the game in first-half stoppage time but the plaudits belonged to Bachmann as Burnley tasted defeat for the first time under new manager Vincent Kompany.
The Austria goalkeeper made five key saves in the second half, including three when Watford were down to 10 men following Hassane Kamara’s 81st-minute dismissal for a professional foul.
Clarets captain Josh Brownhill was repeatedly denied – and the one time he managed to beat Bachmann he saw his shot bounce back off the crossbar.
“He has been magnificent, he really has,” said head coach Edwards.
“He is doing his job, which is to keep the ball out of the back of the net, but he is doing it very well – he is a top pro.
“We needed everyone including our goalkeeper to get something. We were tested, as we knew we would be, but I’m obviously delighted with the three points.”
The first half was largely a non-event apart from Cleverley’s goal two minutes into stoppage time – which turned out to be Watford’s only on-target effort of the night.
The midfielder, celebrating his 33rd birthday, slotted home from 12 yards after Ken Sema had pulled the ball back from the right of the box.
It was captain Cleverley’s first goal in 19 months and his final contribution to the match as he did not reappear for the second half because of a calf injury.
“I’m not anticipating it being a real problem but we will manage it and assess it,” Edwards said. “He missed four weeks of pre-season and was in too much pain to carry on.”
Burnley dominated the second period but could not find a way past the magnificent Bachmann, who had been barracked by Burnley fans in the first half.
Clarets pressure intensified when Kamara saw red for hauling down Vitinho before he could reach the box, with the defender’s poor touch having gifted possession to the Burnley substitute.
“In the first half they were better than us but in the second we could feel the tide was turning,” Kompany said.
“To win games you have got to create chances. I think we have goals in the team but it will happen from players understanding each other better.”
Kompany backed Brownhill to find the net on a regular basis this season.
“I think Josh will get a lot of goals this season, he is threatening,” he said.
Both sides were relegated from the Premier League last season but Burnley had seen a far greater number of summer departures.
“We had 13 players leave, that is the context,” Kompany said. “I don’t think they recognised many faces from when they played each other a few months ago.”
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