Nagjee Cup: Improved Watford downs Rapid Bucharest

Harry Kewell’s boys came up with a vastly improved performance as Watford defeated Rapid Bucharest 2-0 in a Group A match in the Mahindra & Mahindra Sait Nagjee Trophy international football tournament.

Alex Jakubiak (9) of Watford FC in action aginst FC Rapid Bucharest players Robuste Colomer (6) and Costin Raul (16)in Nagjee International Club football   -  Ramesh Kurup

They hardly made an impression on the opening night, but Harry Kewell’s boys came up with a vastly improved performance as Watford defeated Rapid Bucharest 2-0 in a Group A match in the Mahindra & Mahindra Sait Nagjee Trophy international football tournament.

The win at the Corporation Stadium on Tuesday night also brightened up the semi-final chances of the Under-21 side of the English Premier League club. For Rapid, which was guilty of rough play for a second successive game, an even tougher opponent, Atletico Paranaense of Brazil, awaits it in its last match.

Watford, coached by Australia’s 2006 World Cup hero Kewell, had struggled against Paranaense, but looked more organised on this night in its defence, which was pretty effective against the early attacks from the Romanians. It was indeed Rapid which seemed more likely to draw first blood, especially with Madalin Martin looking particularly dangerous; he gave little indication then that he would collect the first red card of the tournament, for kicking Sean Murray late in the second half.

Watford’s first goal game right against the run of play, in the 23rd minute. The well-taken corner kick by George Byers was met by a fine header by Bernard Mensah. But the ball was stopped, though not conclusively, by the Rapid ‘keeper Paul Botas. Alex Jakubiak, however, showed good presence of mind to slot the ball home from close in.

It all happened not long after Watford survived a big scare, when a combination of fine bit of goalkeeping, alert defence and good fortune saw Rapid failing to convert even one of the three chances it got in succession. George Tudoran, Cristian Raiciu and Iulian Popa all had reasons to feel disappointed at not being able to put Rapid ahead.

The goal’s impact seemed limited not merely to the scoreboard, as the Watford boys slowly began to wrest the control from the Romanians, who came close to equalizing twice, in the last five minutes of the opening half. But, Madalin was denied on both those occasions by Luke Simpson, who had a memorable night under the bar for Watford and was named Man-of-the-Match.

Watford clinched the issue through another set-piece, in the 57th minute. This time, Byers’s corner-kick was neatly driven from inside the box by Mensah.

The result: Watford 2 (Alex Jakubiak 23, Bernard Mensah 57) bt Rapid Bucharest 0.

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