HALF-TIME: Bristol City 1, Watford 0
Hornets boss Gianfranco Zola took everyone by surprise when making six changes to the side that thrashed Nottingham Forest 3-0 at the City Ground four days earlier, omitting top scorers Troy Deeney and Matej Vydra among others. Like a well-oiled machine, the visitors absorbed the changes with ease and still dominated the opening exchanges, keeping the ball for long periods and looking to catch their opponents on the counter-attack. An increasingly cagey contest gave rise to a fascinating clash of styles, City dropping deep when out of possession and relying upon sound organisation and total concentration to negate Watford's slick, Continental approach, but demonstrating real cut and thrust whenever an opportunity to attack presented itself. City owed their first clear sight of goal to a typically English assault, centre-back Liam Fontaine meeting a Steven Davies corner with a bullet header which required former Arsenal keeper Manuel Almunia to make a crucial save at full-stretch. Stung into a response, Watford demonstrated their ability to turn defence into attack in an instant, Fernando Forestieri showing City defenders a clean pair of heels and finding strike partner Alex Geijo, whose header from six yards out should have been on target at the very least. Almen Abdi was similarly wasteful when leaning back to meet Jonathan Hogg's low centre with a shot that flew over the cross bar and into the East End. City's more direct approach nearly paid dividends shortly before half time, Paul Anderson applying a deft header to Liam Kelly's lofted pass and looking on as the ball skidded agonisingly wide. Their next attack yielded the Robins the lead in bizarre circumstances. There appeared no danger when Greg Cunningham floated a cross into the penalty area from the left channel, but Watford's triumvirate of central defenders allowed the ball to bounce the greasy surface caused it to rear up and utterly confound Almunia, who was still clutching at thin air as the net bulged.
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