Tom Cleverley’s first-half goal was enough for 10-man Watford to see off Burnley at Vicarage Road and move to the top of the Championship.
Rob Edwards’ side have begun their campaign with two wins and a draw from their first three matches and, while they could be toppled by the end of the weekend, their status as league leaders represents an impressive start to the former Forest Green manager’s tenure.
The game’s only goal came in stoppage time at the end of a first period in which both sides lacked quality in the final third, but Cleverley showed his team-mates how it’s done when he coolly slotted Ken Sema’s pullback from the right past Arijanet Muric and into the bottom corner.
Burnley bossed the second half as they searched for an equaliser but couldn’t find a way past the impressive Daniel Bachmann – even after Hassane Kamara’s late red card for a professional foul – meaning Vincent Kompany’s side have just four points and two goals from their first three matches back in the second tier.
Bachmann keeps out wasteful Burnley
The drama in which this game ended was in stark contrast to a sterile first half in which the most entertainment came from both goalkeepers’ attempts to play the ball out from the back.
The half looked like it would only provide Ismaila Sarr’s rash finish after Joao Pedro’s impressive cross as a talking point until Cleverley showed some much-needed composure to put Watford in front.
The second half saw the Hornets spend most of their time on the back foot as Burnley finally displayed some urgency, but they found Bachmann in more reliable form with his hands than he was with his feet.
The Hornets ‘keeper first denied Josh Brownhill at point-blank range before then blocking Conor Roberts’ volley after the full-back was picked out by Ian Maatsen.
Kamara then increased the pressure on his side when he was dismissed for tugging back Clarets debutant Nathan Tella but Bachmann could not be beaten, keeping out the resulting free-kick and a tame late effort from Luke McNally.
When Burnley finally beat Bachmann they couldn’t beat the crossbar, which Brownhill found when his looping volley in stoppage time ricocheted away and, with that, so did his side’s hopes of taking anything from the game.
Watford face back-to-back away games, starting with a trip to Birmingham on Tuesday followed by a fixture at Preston next Saturday. The Hornets will then return to Vicarage Road to play MK Dons in the Carabao Cup second round on August 23.
In contrast, Burnley face back-to-back home matches against Hull on Tuesday and Blackpool next Saturday before also then turning their attention to the Carabao Cup, where they travel to Shrewsbury for their second-round tie on August 23.