Watford boost survival hopes with vital win over Southampton

Cucho Hernandez’ fourth and fifth goals of the season consigned Saints to a third straight defeat.

A Cucho Hernandez double earned Watford the points (Kieran Cleeves/PA)

By George Sessions, PA

A brace from Cucho Hernandez kickstarted Watford’s survival bid with a 2-1 win at Southampton.

The Colombia attacker struck twice in the first half and although Mohamed Elyounoussi pulled one back for the hosts before half-time, the Hornets held on to register only their sixth Premier League win of the season.

Roy Hodgson’s side stay in the relegation zone but have moved up one position and are level on points with 17th-placed Everton.

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Both sides had lost on Thursday night and Saints reacted by leaving top goalscorer Armando Broja on the bench while the visitors made three changes from the 4-0 loss at Wolves.

The midweek thrashing had further dented the survival hopes of the Hertfordshire outfit and they could have trailed inside two minutes.

Stuart Armstrong crossed in for Elyounoussi on the opposite flank but the Norway international saw his header cleared off the line by the recalled Christian Kabasele.

It had been a torrid season for the Hornets and with only one win from their last 17 games, the away fans were intent on enjoying their afternoon on the south coast with “ole” chants followed by more gallows humour early on.

Joao Pedro almost gave the visiting faithful a goal to celebrate when Mohammed Salisu’s clearance went straight to the Brazilian but Jan Bednarek bailed out his centre-back partner with a fine block.

Salisu and Saints did not learn their lesson, with the opener arriving in the 14th minute after another error.

Cucho Hernandez, right, scores the opening goal (Kieran Cleeves/PA)

First Fraser Forster’s ball out from the back was nearly intercepted and when Salisu tried to play back to him seconds later, his pass was underhit and Hernandez rounded Southampton’s goalkeeper and rifled impressively into the empty net.

Hasenhuttl’s men eventually regrouped and Kyle Walker-Peters saw a cross cleared behind before Salisu wasted the chance to atone for his mistake when he headed over from six yards after a James Ward-Prowse corner.

It was a false dawn, however, with the Hornets able to increase their advantage in the 34th minute.

A neat move down the left saw Juraj Kucka teed up and he produced a wonderful whipped cross to the back post, where Hernandez volleyed home to double his and Watford’s tally.

Walker-Peters went close again before the break and Kucka could have put the game to bed but Forster denied the midfielder after he was sent through by Moussa Sissoko.

It felt pivotal when Elyounoussi reduced the deficit minutes later on the stroke of half-time by directing a Ward-Prowse free-kick beyond Ben Foster.

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Saints’ leading marksman Broja was introduced during the interval but the Chelsea loanee was well-marshalled by Kabasele, with the home side’s best threat coming through set-pieces.

Salisu headed another Ward-Prowse free-kick wide just past the hour mark and Hasenhuttl went to three at the back in an attempt to force a leveller.

Kucka had another opportunity to seal the points with 19 minutes left but his curled strike was saved by Forster and Hernandez squandered a hat-trick chance when he curled over following a counter-attack.

Free-kicks continued to be Southampton’s biggest threat and St Mary’s held its breath when Ward-Prowse lined one up late on.

The Saints captain curled the set-piece onto the roof of the net, though, and Foster saved Che Adams’ header before VAR rejected calls for Kabasele’s handball to be penalised with Watford securing a vital win.

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