Watford marked their first game back in the Championship with a hard-fought victory over Middlesbrough on the opening night of the new league season.
Defender Craig Cathcart scored the winner after 11 minutes, heading past Boro goalkeeper Marcus Bettinelli.
The Hornets, relegated from the Premier League last season and now under new boss Vladimir Ivic, should have gone 2-0 up but Joao Pedro sent a header wide.
Britt Assombalonga went closest for Boro, having a free-kick tipped over.
Neil Warnock’s side saw plenty of the ball but failed to seriously test Ben Foster in the Watford goal, with even captain Assombalonga’s effort from 20 yards only drawing a relatively straightforward save.
Foster kept out another Assombalonga shot with his feet, while Grant Hall wasted their only other clear sight of goal, sending a close-range effort over the bar from a corner.
At the other end, chances were also few and far between for Watford, who were without a host of players through injury – including Gerard Deulofeu, Danny Welbeck and Troy Deeney.
Watford head coach Vladimir Ivic:
“It is a good start, a clean sheet and we won the game so we can be satisfied with the result and the three points.
“I believe that we didn’t do good things in our attacking moments, we didn’t play very well with the ball, we have to work a lot to improve this part of the game.
“Sometimes in a game things don’t go in the direction you prepare it but it was the first game.
“There wasn’t enough time to work and improve, especially in this attacking part, we need to be much better.”
Middlesbrough boss Neil Warnock:
“[On Cathcart’s goal] It’s a Sunday League goal, what can you say? I don’t expect to concede them at any stage of the season, you can’t say we don’t practice enough.
“That is football, isn’t it? I don’t think our goalie had a shot to save but it is all about putting the ball in the back of the net so you have got to give them credit.
“I don’t think they had a clue how to break us down, I think the goalkeeper played centre-half in the second half so I can’t be happier with that, but which dressing room would I rather be in tonight? The winning one.”
- 6WilmotBooked at 85mins
- 21FemeníaSubstituted forNavarroat 75′minutes
- 20QuinaSubstituted forPhillipsat 90′minutes
- 12SemaSubstituted forMurrayat 66′minutes
- 10João Pedro
- 22SavilleSubstituted forWingat 78′minutes
- Keith Stroud
Match ends, Watford 1, Middlesbrough 0.