Ismaïla Sarr struck twice as Norwich’s losing start to the Premier League season extended to five games after a 3-1 defeat to Watford at Carrow Road.
Watford’s record signing, who had not scored since the opening-day win over Aston Villa, proved too good for the Norwich defence with his double putting the game beyond the hosts.
The visitors had taken an early lead, which was the first sign of any cracks in the Norwich defence, as Emmanuel Dennis headed past Tim Krul after being marked poorly in the 17th minute.
Teemu Pukki struck his, and Norwich’s, second Premier League goal of the season to level. However, in the second half Watford took a decisive lead in the 63rd minute with Sarr’s first goal and he made sure of the points with his second 10 minutes from time.
The Canaries had swept to a second Championship title under Daniel Farke last season but so far have again come up short on their return to the top flight.
“It’s been a tough day,” Farke admitted. “It’s also tough to take because first of all we wanted to make a mark. It was a tight game, 50% possession and 12 shots on both sides and we had three really crucial mistakes in our defending game.
“I think that wasn’t clinical enough in our own box and of course the goals change the momentum of the game and the situation, it was not one situation. If you produce these mistakes on this level you are punished and then we were not clinical enough to earn the right to win the points. “In these moments you have to be self critical, it was not a tactical problem, there was not one situation where we were overloaded [in terms of player numbers] but we should have defended much better. If I’m honest there were too many defensive mistakes in order to win the game.”
Before this game Norwich have had the toughest of starts to life back in the top flight – facing Liverpool, Manchester City, Leicester and Arsenal – but again struggled against their fellow promoted side and have now lost five successive matches against Watford.
Summer signing Dennis’s first away goal for Watford broke the deadlock and they could have had a second in the 33rd minute when the ball was pulled back to an unmarked King in the centre of the box but his shot was blocked.
Pukki then beat the offside trap after being played in by debutant Mathias Normann before getting ahead of the last defender and sending the ball over Ben Foster 10 minutes before half-time.
Sarr had been largely kept at bay by Brandon Williams during the first half but
did not have to wait too long for his first goal, which came just after the hour mark, when Josh King made a run down the touchline before pulling it back to Sarr to score. Watford secured the three points in the 80th minute when Sarr tapped home after Tim Krul parried King’s shot.
Watford’s manager, Xisco Muñoz, praised Sarr for his performance and insisted the 23-year-old is happy at the club. He said: “I feel he is very happy here and he enjoys every day in training and he gives very good things for our team. We were mature with the ball, without the ball and we managed the timing of the game. It’s perfect because it’s one step forward.”
Watford face Stoke in the Carabao Cup third round on Tuesday but things don’t get any easier for Norwich who host Liverpool on the same night before travelling to Goodison Park on Saturday in search of their first points.