Andre Gray struck on his return to Turf Moor as Watford scored an away goal for the first time since January to continue their winning start to the Premier League season.
Gray, who left Burnley for Watford in August 2017, produced a brilliant volley from Troy Deeney’s cross in the first three minutes – their first goal on their travels since Javi Gracia was appointed head coach.
Burnley, who beat Istanbul Basaksehir in their Europa League third qualifying round tie on Thursday, equalised just three minutes later as James Tarkowski headed his first goal for the club.
But Watford scored twice in the opening six minutes of the second half to secure victory – with captain Deeney hitting his first Watford goal since March by latching on to Abdoulaye Doucoure’s perfectly weighted pass.
Will Hughes fired a third for the Hornets when he collected Burnley defender Matt Lowton’s loose pass and drove the ball in from outside the area, well beyond the reach of goalkeeper Joe Hart.
With 20 minutes remaining, Sam Vokes almost scored with his very first touch after coming on as a substitute for Burnley, heading narrowly wide as Ben Foster scrambled to his bottom corner.
However visitors Watford, who defeated Brighton 2-0 last weekend, finished the superior side as their opponents – playing their sixth competitive match in 25 days – failed to find a route back into the match.
Watford set about amending shocking away record
Watford’s comfortable victory over Brighton temporarily hushed questions over how they might cope after losing Richarlison to Everton for £50m in July.
Gracia’s men have endured startling struggles away from home recently, failing to record a win in 12 top flight trips before today, losing 11 of those and failing to score in their past eight on the road.
But Deeney remained adamant following victory last week that suggestions his team were set to “fall apart” following their summer business were unfair.
And fielding a line-up unchanged from the Brighton game, Watford set about amending their away statistics on Sunday.
It was Argentine Roberto Pereyra that stepped up to fill the Brazilian’s boots with two goals for the Hornets last time out, but it was Gray who supplied the early heroics against his former side, demonstrating his clinical ability in front of goal with a brilliant volley beyond Hart.
Deeney proved a constant nuisance for the Burnley back line and his perseverance ultimately culminated in his long-awaited return to the scoresheet.
The Hornets showed a real togetherness, characterised by Gray and Deeney’s effective link-up play, that will see them prove difficult opposition in the league this term and Hughes’ excellent strike capped off a pleasing performance for Spaniard Gracia.
Burnley’s European balancing act
Manager Sean Dyche reverted to the 11 that started last Sunday’s 0-0 Premier League opener at Southampton, having made seven changes for Thursday’s Europa League match.
The obvious issue for Dyche at the beginning of the campaign was how to balance a relatively thin squad, ensuring their European exploits – however long they continue – detract as little as possible from their Premier League efforts after achieving seventh spot last term.
However, they were caught out by Watford’s blistering start in both halves and, though Dyche will have been pleased by Burnley’s ability to respond immediately to the opening goal, their start to the second half will have been hugely frustrating.
Only three players who completed the whole 120 minutes in midweek – Hart, Jeff Hendrick and Stephen Ward – started again on Sunday, but Watford looked the sharper side and dominated the second half as Burnley began to run out of ideas.
It means that Dyche’s team have not won any of their past seven Premier League matches, losing four – a run stretching back to April.
They do have faces yet to feature, including summer addition Matej Vydra who is not yet match fit – and will need them, given that there is no let-up in the immediate fixture list. The task of defeating Olympiakos over two legs in the Europa League play-off starts with a trip to Greece on Thursday.
Man of the match – Troy Deeney (Watford)
‘We gave the game away’ – what they said
Watford manager Javi Gracia: “Today we scored three and we have done better than last season. But I don’t like to look back at the statistics of last season; I prefer to enjoy the moment. We did a good job and I’m very happy for the players.
“It is important the amount of goals but the quality as well. Today the strikers Troy Deeney and Andre Gray scored which is very important for them and the team. Will Hughes scored an outstanding goal. I am happy for all of them.
“All the players are working a lot. Troy for example has a brilliant attitude in every training session and we will try to keep that in the next games.”
Burnley manager Sean Dyche: “We gave the game away. In the very beginning we were not very sharp – their first shot on target goes in. We responded very well, had a good first half and a number of chances we should have made more of.
“The players had a warning to start the second half right and we didn’t. The only gripe is that you can understand if we didn’t start well but the players had that warning before the second half.”
Hornets’ flying start – the stats
- Watford have won their opening two matches in a top-flight league season for only the second time. On the previous occasion (1982-83), they finished second, behind Liverpool.
- Andre Gray’s opening goal ended a run of 730 minutes without a Premier League away goal for Watford. Indeed, Gray was the last Hornets’ player to score on the road in the competition before today; at Manchester City on 2 January.
- Watford’s opening goal by Andre Gray, after two minutes 40 seconds, was their quickest in a Premier League away match.
- Watford’s Will Hughes has ended on the winning side in each of the last 13 competitive games he has scored in.
- Since regaining promotion to the Premier League in 2016, this is only the second time that Burnley have conceded three or more goals in a home match (haviong lost 0-3 at home to Tottenham Hotspur in December 2017).
- James Tarkowski’s goal was his first for Burnley in all competitions, in what was his 67th appearance for the club.
Burnley travel to Greece for the first-leg of their Europa League qualifier against Olympiakos on Thursday (19:00 BST) before a trip to Fulham next Sunday (16:00 BST). Watford host Crystal Palace earlier that day (13:30 BST).