Swansea defender Alfie Mawson made a costly error as his side were beaten by Watford at Vicarage Road to remain two points adrift of Premier League safety.
After an uneventful first 40 minutes, Mawson took too much time on the ball in a dangerous area and Etienne Capoue, on his return from injury, nicked the ball off the young defender and fired home at the second time of asking.
Swans captain Gylfi Sigurdsson strolled through the Watford defence right at the death but gave Heurelho Gomes an easy save as his side fell to their sixth straight away defeat. Their only consolation is that relegation rivals Hull were well beaten at Stoke.
Swansea, now winless in six Premier League games, face a continued battle to survive, but Walter Mazzarri’s Watford look to have earned another season of Premier League football.
Sigurdsson was once again the bright spark for Swansea and had their best chance of the first half, but his effort was turned away by Gomes at his left post.
Watford captain Troy Deeney, reinstated to the starting XI after he was dropped to the bench for their 4-0 loss to Tottenham, could have put his side ahead but his first-time shot was tipped over the bar by Swans keeper Lukasz Fabianski.
The game looked to be winding down to half-time when centre-back Mawson hesitated in a dangerous area and, as he turned to send the ball back to Fabianksi, Capoue stormed in.
The Watford midfielder’s first shot was blocked by Swansea keeper Fabianksi, but his rebound found the target as Swansea looked stunned.
The second half offered very little, but Watford’s defence, which has been leaky of late, looked far more assured with Sebastian Prodl back in the mix and they held on to take all three points.
Swans slowly sinking
Paul Clement took over from Bob Bradley as Swansea manager in January and saw an initial upturn in form after his appointment – he won three of his first four games in charge.
And his side were five points clear of the bottom three at the start of March.
But a horror run of just one point from six games has seen them slide back into the relegation zone – a stalemate with Middlesbrough is all Clement’s men have to show for their efforts in recent weeks.
Swansea have five games left to secure their top-flight survival and extend their six-year run in the Premier League.
It looks increasingly like it could be a straight shootout with Hull City, who sit just two points above them having lost 3-1 at Stoke on Saturday.
But of the two, Swansea look to have the trickier fixtures, with next week’s home game against Stoke probably one they have to win.
|Swansea’s remaining fixtures||Hull City’s remaining fixtures|
|Stoke City (h)||Watford (h)|
|Manchester United (a)||Southampton (a)|
|Everton (h)||Sunderland (h)|
|Sunderland (a)||Crystal Palace (a)|
|West Brom (h)||Tottenham (h)|
Mazzarri marching on
Watford manager Walter Mazzarri’s fears of a slide down the table towards the end of the season will have been eased by his side’s third home win in a row.
And the three points, which keep Watford 10th in the the table, will also have delighted the club’s somewhat over-zealous owners.
Udinese and Granada owners the Pozzo family completed a takeover of the club back in 2012 – and have sacked seven managers in their time in charge.
Wanting to improve on a disappointing end to the 2015-16 season, they let manager Quique Sanchez Flores go with the club in 13th place – and his predecessor’s fate will surely be at the forefront of Mazzarri’s mind.
The Italian has faced criticism this season over his grasp of the English language and coaching techniques.
But his side, who have been plagued by injuries in recent weeks, were buoyed by the return of Capoue and ground out a tough victory.
They can start preparing for life in the Premier League next season – a campaign Mazzarri plans on being a part of.
Man of the match – Etienne Capoue
‘We need three wins out of five to stay up’ – what the managers said
Watford manager Walter Mazzarri:
“We knew it was going to be a very tough game. We could have killed the game off but we didn’t and we had to suffer until the end.
“It is normal that when a new manager comes, he has to give his identity to the team and it takes a bit of time. Now the squad are playing good football.
“Until the numbers say we are safe, we are not. I don’t want my players to relax and I want to play with the same formation in order to get ready for next season.”
Swansea boss Paul Clement:
“I think we did enough defensively. The goal has come for an individual error and Alfie [Mawson] knew that straight away. It’s a big mistake.
“Offensively we got the ball into some good areas but we were missing a clinical edge in the final third. That for me was the difference.
“We had over 45 minutes to try and get out of that situation but we couldn’t get the breakthrough.
“Hull not winning today keeps things the same but for me it’s a missed opportunity not to get a point today.
“The next one is a must-win game for us. It’s the biggest game the club has had in years.
“We will probably need three wins out of the last five to stay up. And I’m not even sure that would be enough.”
Watford’s French fancies – the stats
- Watford have kept three consecutive clean sheets on home soil in the Premier League for the first time since September 2015.
- Etienne Capoue netted his first goal in 19 Premier League games, after bagging five in his previous 12 this season.
- 11 of Watford’s Premier League goals have come from French players (Capoue, Kaboul, Niang and Doucoure), a national haul only Arsenal can match this season.
- The Hornets have won three of their past four top-flight games (L1) after failing to win any of the four before that (D1 L3).
- The Swans have failed to score in four of their past five Premier League games (one goal scored in the other), after finding the back of the net in seven in a row.
- The away side has never scored in any of the four Premier League games between these two sides.
Swansea are at home to Stoke, while Watford host the Swans’ relegation rivals Hull – both games are next Saturday and 15:00 BST kick-offs.