Watford boss Nigel Pearson admitted his side had “missed an opportunity” to get a vital victory and move out of the relegation zone as Adrian Mariappa’s own goal gifted Brighton a draw.
Abdoulaye Doucoure put the Hornets ahead from 18 yards out after he ran with the ball from the halfway line following Aaron Mooy’s misplaced pass.
But Alireza Jahanbakhsh’s low cross from the right wing was lashed into his own net by Mariappa, under no pressure from a Brighton player, with Watford remaining 19th in the Premier League.
“It’s probably a missed opportunity but also a hard-earned point,” said Pearson. “We’ve played better than that in our last two games, we worked exceptionally hard out of possession but we’ve got to be better in possession.
“I’ll be reminding the players regularly about what’s expected.
“If you thought it was easy to negotiate a relegation battle, it’s not. We’ve got players who have played quite a bit of football and perhaps didn’t reach the levels we’ve done recently.
“The players understand what is needed and we have to push on from here.”
Brighton, three points ahead of Watford in 15th, had a late chance to score a winner but Leandro Trossard lifted his shot over the crossbar from a tight angle on the corner of the six-yard box.
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Watford throw two points away
A number of Watford players, including goalkeeper Foster, went to console the experienced Mariappa after the game had finished, but they will know this was two points thrown away in their fight to avoid relegation.
The 78th-minute own goal came only a minute after Foster had produced a fine save with his legs to deny Mooy in what had been the first shot on target from either side in the second half.
There appeared to be no danger when Jahanbakhsh played a pass into the penalty area but Mariappa, wrongly thinking there was a player close behind him, panicked and sent his attempted clearance into his own net.
“The way the goal went in was very disappointing,” said Foster in an interview with BT Sport. “Maps [Mariappa] is not trying to score an own goal, but that’s football. It can go against you sometimes.
“The way we dropped back is a symptom of where we are in the league. We tried to defend what we had and thought we could weather the storm.
“Brighton threw it all at us but if it wasn’t for the own goal we would have won.”
For Watford it means they have now not won in five matches in all competitions after they had won four of their previous five Premier League matches before that.
Brighton are also on a poor run and have not gained a victory in seven attempts in 2020.
Brighton fight back again but there will still be concerns
The Seagulls came back from 2-0 and 3-1 down to gain a 3-3 draw at West Ham a week ago and again rescued a point from a losing position.
However, manager Graham Potter will be furious at the nature of the goal they conceded inside the opening 20 minutes as a sloppy Mooy pass was picked up by Doucoure, who, with the Seagulls players backing off, was able to move at pace to the edge of the box before firing past Mat Ryan.
In a game of few chances, the hosts thought they may have had a first-half penalty when Ezequiel Schelotto went to ground under a challenge by Gerard Deulofeu, but, following a check from the video assistant referee, nothing was given.
Brighton’s defence was again guilty of letting a man run at them in the second half but Deulofeu did not make them pay as he dragged a shot wide, before the own goal earned them a point.
Although the Seagulls improved in the second half, these are still worrying times for Brighton, in their third successive season in the top-flight.
They were eighth on 2 November, with Potter, who had only become the club’s manager last summer, rewarded with a new contract that keeps him at the club until 2025.
However, they have only picked up 12 points in 13 Premier League matches since Potter signed that deal and are only three points clear of the bottom three, having played a game more than the three sides directly below them.
Man of the match – Etienne Capoue (Watford)
Watford lose more points from a winning position – the stats
- Brighton have lost just one of their last seven top-flight meetings with Watford (won two, drew four), a 2-0 defeat in the Premier League in August 2018.
- Watford have lost just one of their last eight away league games against Brighton (won three, drew four), a 1-0 defeat in the Premier League in December 2017.
- Watford have dropped 17 points from winning positions in the Premier League this season including eight across their last three games – only West Ham (19) have dropped more points from winning positions in the competition in 2019-20.
- Brighton have failed to win any of their 24 home Premier League games when conceding the first goal (drew 10, lost 14).
- Brighton have won just one of their last 11 Premier League games (drew six, lost four) and remain winless since a 2-0 victory against Bournemouth in December 2019 (played six, drew four, lost two since).
- Watford have picked up five points from their last four Premier League away games (won one, drew two, lost one), as many points as they won in their first nine away league games this season (won one, drew two, lost six).
- Since the start of last season, Watford have conceded six own goals in the Premier League, more than any other side.
- Abdoulaye Doucoure has scored three goals in his last six Premier League games for Watford, as many as in his previous 34 appearances in the competition.
‘I’m proud of the players’ – what they said
Brighton boss Graham Potter speaking to Match of the Day: “We gave a lot in the game. It was difficult to go behind when we had started quite well and were in the ascendancy.
“The crowd got a little nervous and the atmosphere is difficult. I’m proud of the players because we took responsibility of the game. The character they showed, they accepted the challenge because you could go under at that point – it’s not easy to be the one that has to find the answers.
“Aaron Mooy had a good chance before we scored, it’s an own goal but it’s a good attack.
“We were down on the scoreline, the lads desperately want to get points, get the win. We showed maturity. It’s not easy in the Premier League when you are down.
“Every point is what it is and we have to take it. We will look to move forward, take a break now and move forward for Sheffield United.”
Watford manager Nigel Pearson speaking to Match of the Day: “We scored a really good goal in the first half but we didn’t really play well enough at times. We played a side that is possession-based and Ben Foster has only made one save. They’ve not really caused us a lot of problems.
“We’ve got belief and I expect us to push on when we come back from the winter break.
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“Two months in, we’re in contact. Teams know they’ll have a tough game against us and it’s very much in our own hands.”
Both sides will now have their mid-season break and a two-week gap before their next matches. Brighton play at Sheffield United on Saturday, 22 February (15:00 GMT), while Watford’s next match comes a day later (14:00) when they face Manchester United at Old Trafford.
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