Watford 2 Southampton 2: Abdoulaye Doucoure's blatant handball denies Saints first win in 10 matches

Abdoulaye Doucoure nets Watford's equaliser with his hand Credit: ACTION IMAGES

Southampton were denied their first league win since November after Abdoulaye Doucoure bundled in a 90th minute equaliser reminiscent of Diego Maradona’s against England in the 1986 World Cup. 

Saints, who had led 2-0 at the break after James Ward-Prowse’s goals, were furious and surrounded the officials after the goal and at full time, with this result keeping the pressure on their manager, Mauricio Pellegrino. 

“It surprised me because for me the standard of the referees of the Premier League is good but everyone can make mistakes,” he said graciously. 

“Obviously my feeling is like all my players in the dressing room. I don’t remember many chances for them. We are a little bit sad because even in the second half when Watford, they tried to push us, I think most of this time we played well.” 

Wesley Hoedt of Southampton argues with referee Roger East Credit: GETTY IMAGES

A game of two halves might be the best cliché to apply. The Saints were slick and organized in the opening 45 minutes, cutting through the Hornets at will and creating a glut of chances, two of which they took. 

The impressive Shane Long created both, one from each flank. The first came as he raced down the right and crossed for Ward-Prowse to carefully guide his finish low into the left corner. 

The second came as he outpaced Molla Wague on the left and crossed for Dusan Tadic who deftly played in the overlapping Saints midfielder to tuck away his second a minute before half time. 

The Hornets have conceded more goals at home than any other team in the division and their woeful run looked set to continue with fans jeering Silva’s first half substitution of Pereyra for Tom Cleverley and booing the team off at half-time. 

The Portuguese responded by introducing the muscular presence of Troy Deeney and later, Stefano Okaka, and it made all the difference. 

Southampton were cowed, a defence lacking Virgil Van Dijk, whose £75 million transfer fee is yet to be invested, suffered a torrid second half. 

James Ward-Prowse celebrates scoring for Southampton Credit: REUTERS

“[Deeney] is an important player for us I think everybody knows that,” said Silva. “Every time he came off the bench, he had a fantastic impact on our team. 

“I think we deserved the result. It’s true we did well the second half but we did really badly the first half. We didn’t start well like I expected. We didn’t play with the right mentality, the right attitude as well. Completely different the second half.” 

The Hornets looked certain to score when Richarlison was poised to convert before Ryan Bertrand executed a superbly timed block. 

But it was only a temporary reprieve and the home side were soon back in it. 

Predictably Deeney was involved in the goal, robbing the hesitant Steven Davis and finding Daryl Janmaat whose shot cannoned back off the crossbar to the waiting Andre Gray, who nodded in his first home goal for the club. 

With the game heading into five minutes of extra time, Southampton looked to have quelled the storm and earned a priceless and long overdue victory. 

But on the first anniversary of Graham Taylor’s death, poignantly marked ahead of kick off, it wasn’t the divine intervention attributed to Maradona’s goal at the Azteca but perhaps the spirit of Taylor smiling down on the club he lifted from the Fourth division to the First in five years. 

Doucoure was the beneficiary, bundling in Deeney’s knock-down after Jack Stephens had slipped as the bemused Southampton defence looked to the linesman. 

“I think we have to try the technology because every single team sport, the technology helps to make better decisions and why not football,” said Pellegrino when asked about the introduction of VAR. 

So egregious was the error, Silva had no option but to agree.  “Of course I don’t need to talk about the goal more, it’s something that can happen. I understand it’s not easy for our opponents.”