A second half penalty from substitute Troy Deeney robbed Crystal Palace of an opening victory under new boss Sam Allardyce at Vicarage Road on Boxing Day.
- Watford 1 Crystal Palace 1
- Hornets duo Janmaat and Behrami injured early on
- Cabaye fires Palace in front
- Gomes saves Benteke penalty
- Deeney equalises from the penalty spot
Watford were dealt an early blow in the contest after both Daryl Janmaat and Valon Behrami were subbed off due to injury.
Palace went on to break the deadlock in the 26th minute through Yohan Cabaye, before Christian Benteke saw his 36th-minute penalty kept out by Heurelho Gomes in the Watford goal.
And Benteke was made to rue that spot-kick miss as the Hornets went on to level matters with a penalty of their own after the break, substitute Troy Deeney netting the all-important goal.
Both sides threw caution to the wind in the final 15 minutes of the clash, but the scoreline remained unchanged as newly-appointed Palace boss Sam Allardyce was forced to settle for a share of the spoils in his first match in charge.
Troy Deeney’s penalty ensures the points are shared at Vicarage Road pic.twitter.com/1H0VyJvol0
— Premier League (@premierleague) December 26, 2016
The encounter started on a sour note for the Hornets after Daryl Janmaat pulled up with a suspected groin injury after just two minutes of play.
The Eagles had made a strong start to the encounter and went close to claiming the lead in the 14th minute when Andros Townsend fired just wide of the left-hand post from outside the box.
And Watford's afternoon went from bad to worse just one minute later as Valon Behrami picked up a hamstring problem, forcing manager Walter Mazzarri to bring on Troy Deeney for the injured Switzerland international.
The two early changes only served to disrupt Watford's flow, and Palace almost took full advantage in the 15th minute as Benteke saw his headed effort saved in the top-left corner by Gomes.
They again went close to breaking the deadlock ten minutes later, but Yohan Cabaye failed to find the mark from outside the box.
However, the Frenchman made amends for that missed chance just one minute later, latching onto a sumptuous through-pass from Townsend before firing an angled shot into the bottom-left corner from the right-hand side of the box.
The visitors continued to pile on the pressure and were rewarded for their positive play when Gomes clattered Benteke in the penalty area on 35 minutes. Benteke dusted himself down before stepping up to take the resulting spot-kick, but saw his tame effort saved in the bottom-right corner by Gomes.
That was the last chance of note, though, as an entertaining first half drew to a close.
— Crystal Palace F.C. (@CPFC) December 26, 2016
The second half started at a cautious tempo, though, with goal-scoring chances few and far between in the opening 15 minutes.
It was Watford who looked more likely to score, however, as Adlene Guedioura, Odion Ighalo, Sebastian Prodl and Juan Zuniga all went close to bagging the equaliser.
And they finally got the breakthrough they were looking for in the 71st minute when Damien Delaney fouled Prodl in the danger area. Substitute Deeney stepped up to take the spot-kick and made no mistake, netting his 100th goal for the Hornets.
DEENEY: “When you aren't having a good time in front of goal, I just thought 'hit the ball as hard as I can.'” pic.twitter.com/f3rl8IAfGG
— Watford FC (@WatfordFC) December 26, 2016
Palace hit back three minutes later, but Scott Dann was unable to guide his header on target from Jason Puncheon's inviting cross.
It was Watford who ended the match on the front foot, although they were unable to snatch a late winner as Ighalo and Guedioura saw their respective efforts kept out by Wayne Hennessey in the Palace goal.