Norwich City 3 Watford 0
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Norwich City turned on the style to sink 10-man Watford for their first Championship win of the new season at Carrow Road.
The Hornets’ task was made even more difficult when Joel Ekstrand was red-carded inside the opening five minutes after leaving Nathan Redmond flat out on the turf with blood pouring from a facial wound.
Bradley Johnson clipped a superb finish over Heurelho Gomes before the break with Neil Adams’ men dominating territory and possession but two goals either side of the hour mark sealed the first win of his tenure.
Lewis Grabban matched Johnson’s impudence from 20 yards and then Alex Tettey rifled a thunderous low finish for the Canaries.
Adams was able to introduce both Gary O’Neil and Leroy Fer in the closing stages on a perfect afternoon for his side.
The City chief made three changes from the starting line up that lost 1-0 at Wolves. Javier Garrido replaced the suspended Martin Olsson after his red card at Molineux. Tettey came into the City midfield with Elliott Bennett dropping to the substitutes’ bench. Kyle Lafferty was also handed his first competitive start with Andrew Surman absent from the matchday squad.
Fer made a welcome return on the bench after his extended summer break, with summer signing O’Neil also included alongside the Dutch international.
Watford’s prolific striker Troy Deeney was named in the Hornets’ line up after fresh reports on Saturday morning of a rejected transfer bid from Leicester City to partner Matej Vydra.
Lewis McGugan tested John Ruddy with a low free kick after Johnson had hauled down Deeney inside the opening seconds, but the Hornets’ were reduced to 10 men within two minutes when Ekstrand was adjudged to have caught Redmond in the face. Referee Tierney had no hesitation in producing a straight red with blood pouring from Redmond’s nose.
Michael Turner thumped the header over from Wes Hoolahan’s free kick with the visitors facing a major re-organisation so early in the contest.
City tried to maintain the intensity of a ferocious start to the proceedings with Lafferty, operating in a wide left berth, and Grabban looking to link up at every opportunity.
Redmond was showing no ill effects from his early tussle, whipping a free kick up and over the Watford wall but beyond Gomes’ left-hand post.
Watford were predictably forced to probe on the counter and Almen Abdi scuffed a long range strike well wide of Ruddy’s goal.
Tettey accepted the invitation to range forward but Gomes gathered with no alarms. The Brazilian, however, could only watch Johnson’s deflected strike spiral a yard past his upright shortly after before Redmond’s rising effort dipped over with City upping the ante in search of that breakthrough.
Lafferty remained a prominent figure in the first 30 minutes with the Northern Irishman’s first-time cushioned pass begging for a taker in yellow as the ball drifted across Gomes’ six-yard line from Johnson’s superb clipped pass.
Johnson finally punctured Watford’s resistance in the 32nd minute with a wonderfully deft lift over the stranded Gomes from 20 yards out after Lafferty and Hoolahan had fashioned a chance.
City’s scorer tried his luck again from the same range with a powerful strike that had Gomes diving full length as a precaution.
Hoolahan’s teasing pass freed Grabban, but Gomes was out swiftly to smother with his chest from an acute angle in the closing seconds of the opening period.
Grabban and Lafferty cut through again prior to the interval, with Watford’s defence back-pedalling, only for the former Rangers’ man to drag wide from long range.
Steven Whittaker’s first time cross just evaded the sliding Lafferty six yards out in a positive sign of intent following the restart. Watford’s counter-attacking threat had been embellished at the break with the introduction of Lloyd Dyer and it needed Ruddy at his best to parry from the wide player after City were caught with too many numbers high up the pitch.
Hoolahan’s vision carved out another chance for the hosts with Lafferty’s first time shot drifting just over from the edge of the area.
City responded to Watford’s urgings with two goals either side of the hour mark. Grabban emulated Johnson with a perfectly-executed lob over Gomes from 20 yards before Tettey thundered in a low strike from the same distance to spark waves of relief around Carrow Road.
Adams opted to dip into his resources in the aftermath with Tettey and Lafferty both withdrawn; the Northern Irishman earning a huge ovation for his maiden shift.
Fer then made his entrance for the first time since his World Cup exploits with the Dutch - Hoolahan making way for the final quarter of a game City were now in total control.
Fer was straight into the action with an angled pass Grabban tried to lift over Gomes but it lacked the precision of his earlier finish. Whittaker and Johnson both tried their luck again in the closing stages but City appeared content to play out the match at their own pace.
• Norwich City: Ruddy, Whittaker, Martin, Turner, Garrido, Tettey (O’Neil 65), Johnson, Redmond, Hoolahan (Fer 72), Lafferty (E Bennett 67), Grabban. Subs (not used): Rudd, Loza, Josh Murphy, R Bennett.
• Booking: Grabban (ungentlemanly conduct, 78)
• Goals: Johnson (32), Grabban (59), Tettey (61)
• Watford: Gomes, Tamas, Ekstrand, Angella, Paredes, Abdi (Andrews 63), Tozser, McGugan (Dyer 45), Pudil, Deeney, Vydra (Forestieri 63). Subs (not used): Bond, Munari, Ighalo, Hoban.
• Booking: Tozser (dissent, 75)
• Sending off: Ekstrand (3)
• Added on time: 3 minutes / 3 minutes
• Referee: P Tierney (Lancashire)
• Attendance: 26,375