Watford manager Xisco Munoz hailed his side’s performance as they held off a late Aston Villa challenge to kickstart their Premier League return with a 3-2 victory.
Club-record signing Ismaila Sarr had already set up Emmanuel Dennis’ first club goal for Watford’s opener before he found the net himself for their second.
Debutant Cucho Hernandez added their third just moments after coming on but Villa were able to reply through John McGinn’s long-range effort.
In added time, referee Mike Dean pointed to the penalty spot after a foul in the box, with debutant Danny Ings stepping up and making no mistake for his new club but there was not enough time left for the visitors to push for a leveller.
“It was a very good day today. I think also to welcome back our fans in our stadium was amazing from Watford,” Munoz said.
“Also I’m very happy with the players because we have been working for seven weeks very, very hard, morning and afternoon.
“For me it was the first game in the Premier League so I enjoyed it because it was a very good game.”
Despite Dennis’ recent arrival, the debutant worked well with Sarr, who had joined the club for a record fee in the summer of 2019.
Munoz added: “I think the most important thing is that the team understand what is happening in the game, what space we need.
“Some days I can say I think the team understand what is narrow, and the most important thing is to understand the space, what space is, and we tried to create space for Dennis and for Sarr and it was a brilliant first half because we scored twice and we had more chances to score.
“Today it was our game, a narrow team, played the space behind us, because we know Aston Villa always try to play the space behind us and we always played a good transition.
“I think today the team understood what happened in the game today and it was a very good performance.”
Aston Villa manager Dean Smith condemned his side’s first-half performance, likening it to a “friendly”.
“First half. Dreadful,” the Villa boss said when asked what disappointed him the most about his side’s performance.
“We’d forgotten what we were in pre-season, what we were in training and what we were last season – and that was the biggest thing.
“I just felt that we lacked intensity, off the ball, on the ball, we looked to hurt them and it almost looked like we were playing a friendly game, but a Premier League game is not a friendly.
“We showed signs at the start of the second half but we had a mountain to climb and we just set up for the counter-attack then and I thought Ashley Young did a lot better than (Matt Targett) did in the first half.”
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