Middlesbrough 0-1 Watford: Holebas stunner sends Hornets into top half

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It wasn’t pretty, but it worked as Watford earned its third win of the season behind an absolute peach of a goal from Jose Holebas shortly after halftime.

Watford did most of its damage on the break as its pace and directive down the flanks proved effective in breaking down the defensively stout Middlesbrough.

The first half was a chippy affair with plenty of fouls but few true chances on net. The opening 20 minutes was all Middlesbrough, with the hosts holding nearly 70% of the possession as the clock ticked towards halftime. There were few true efforts on goal, but they worked a solid chance on 25 minutes with Stewart Downing firing just wide after a popped-up ball fell in his lap.

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Middlesbrough could consider themselves lucky past the half-hour mark as Antonio Barrigan, already booked nine minutes prior, hauled down Isaac Success on the break, but was not given his marching orders by referee Roger East. The resulting free-kick was the best chance of the half for the visitors, but neither Holebas nor Younes Kaboul could get a head to the dangerous delivery.

Success, on his full debut for the club after five substitute appearances, proved bright on the counter-attack, drawing a host of fouls that put Middlesbrough in danger. Cristhian Stuani was also lucky to stay on the field, already having been booked when he kicked Success in the chest with an errant boot just after halftime.

[ MORE: Watch full PL match replays ]

After 54 minutes, the game sprung to life suddenly. Out of nothing, a wonder strike from Holebas put Watford in front. Success went down in the penalty area screaming for the referee to point to the spot, and with Roger East not biting, the clearance fell to the feet of Holebas outside the penalty area, who ripped a screamer into the top corner of the net.

The game exploded open as Watford continued to counter with pace. Success remained dangerous, and again Barrigan got away with hacking down the Nigerian on the touchline as Watford looked to counter past the hour mark, with what again seemed a card-worthy incident went completely unpunished. The Spaniard was immediately withdrawn by Middlesbrough boss Aitor Karanka along with the booked Stuani.

[ MORE: Latest Premier League standings ]

Boro would finish the match with 64% of possession, but couldn’t do much at all with it, putting 10 shots towards Watford’s net, but only three on target. They also racked up a whopping 15 fouls and four yellow cards, proving to be their undoing. The win for the visitors pushed them into the top half of the table on 11 points, while Middlesbrough remained on eight points. Watford’s clean sheet is also its first of the season.

Watford chasing Rennes, Senegal star Sarr

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Watford may capture one of the rising stars of the game.

Ismaila Sarr would cost the Hornets a club transfer record fee, and Sky Sports says that Watford and Rennes are about $10 million apart.

The Ligue 1 side reportedly wants $34 million for the Senegal national team right wing.

[ VIDEO: Nketiah leads Arsenal win ]

Sarr, 21, scored a goal and an assist in Senegal’s run to the Africa Cup of Nations final, playing opposite Sadio Mane of Liverpool.

He posted 13 goals with 14 assists last season between Ligue 1, the French Cup, and the Europa League. He was the lone Rennes player to score against Arsenal in the UEL Round of 16.

Watford has held onto Abdoulaye Doucoure and Dodi Lukebakio this offseason. Lukebakio is also a 21-year-old right wing, and had a sensational loan season with Fortuna Dusseldorf in 2019-20.

Nketiah leads Arsenal past Fiorentina (video)

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Eddie Nketiah scored twice as Arsenal beat Fiorentina 3-0 in Charlotte on Saturday.

Joe Willock also scored for the Gunners, which beat Colorado Rapids and Bayern Munich in their first two matches of the preseason and meet Real Madrid in Maryland on Tuesday.

[ MORE: Guardiola hails KDB ]

Fiorentina took 18 of the match’s 30 shots, though Arsenal had nearly 60 percent of the ball.

Nketiah, 20, scored against Burnley in last season’s Premier League finale and then late against Bayern Munich earlier this week.

He was deft in a high-pressure spot for this one.

Premier League friendlies: Watford beats Bayer, Man Utd over Inter

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Arsenal and Fiorentina are set to kickoff in Charlotte tonight, with the Gunners the last of a bevy of Premier League sides to engage in preseason friendlies this muggy Saturday.

[ MORE: Guardiola hails KDB ]


Girona 1-2 Bournemouth

Juanpe’s late header pushed La Liga’s hosts past Eddie Howe and his 10-man Cherries, playing down after VAR deemed Jack Simpson‘s foul worthy of a sending off. Ryan Fraser scored Bournemouth’s goal, assisted by Jordon Ibe.

Northampton Town 0-4 Sheffield United

Oliver Norwood converted two penalties in an easy win for Chris Wilder in his return to a club he played for and managed.

Fulham 2-1 Brighton and Hove Albion

Pascal Gross scored with an early free kick — a Megan Rapinoe special — but Tom Cairney scored twice after halftime for the Championship side.

Cheltenham Town 1-2 Leicester City

The Foxes collected a second win over a lower league side this week, with Jamie Vardy and Marc Albrighton on the board.

Newcastle United 1-0 West Ham United (Shanghai)

New manager Steve Bruce watched from the crowd as the Magpies made amends for a 4-0 loss to Wolves by blanking West Ham. Jamie Sterry‘s cross for Yoshinori Muto was delightful, and the Japanese striker’s finish was well-taken.

Port Vale 1-3 Burnley; Crewe Alexandra 0-1 Burnley

Chris Wood, Matej Vydra and Robbie Brady scored as the Clarets overcame an early Nick Pope goal to beat Port Vale, but the Premier League side couldn’t do much in a simultaneous friendly at Crewe.

Inter Milan 0-1 Manchester United (Singapore)

Substitute forward Mason Greenwood, just 17, scored the late goal in a match United controlled, outshooting Inter 21-8.

Preston North End 1-3 Southampton

Brace-bagging Danny Ings doesn’t usually have a problem with finish, so passing the ball directly to him is not something we’d recommend to goalkeepers. Jake Vokins also scored for Saints at Deepdale.

Watford 2-1 Bayer Leverkusen (Austria)

Will Hughes and Andre Gray scored as the Hornets collected a win over Champions League competition.

Man City (0-0, 2-3 pens) Wolves (Shanghai)

Rui Patricio was very good over 90 minutes, and stopped City’s first two penalty attempts as Wolves continue to perplex the PL champions.

WATCH: Marco Fabian smashes set piece goal

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Marco Fabian sent a missile toward goal, and perhaps it’s good the goalkeeper didn’t get to the hand-breaking shot.

Philadelphia took a 1-0 lead over Chicago on Saturday in Chester, Pennsylvania, thanks to the Mexican midfielder.

[ REPORT: Man Utd locks up De Gea ]

It was a pretty set piece from Jim Curtin’s men, a backwards played free kick was laid off to Fabian for his audacious rip.

Fabian hasn’t had a wonderful 2019 season, but his fourth goal of the season will give Union supporters hope that he’ll pick up his form and make the already East-leading side all the more dangerous.