Watford boss Walter Mazzarri brushed aside cries of a lack of sportsmanship from Middlesbrough counterpart Aitor Karanka after the Hornets bulldozed their way into the Premier League’s top half with victory at the Riverside Stadium.
Karanka accused Watford’s players of time-wasting and being prone to simulation during a clash settled by a long-range effort from former Roma full-back Jose Holebas in the early stages of the second period.
Victory moved Watford, who have suffered just one defeat in their last five matches, to 10th in the table, while Middlesbrough – winless at home since gaining promotion – are outside the relegation zone on goal difference.
“I don’t know what he [Karanka] is talking about,” said Mazzarri. “I’m very happy with the result. We defended very well, but we can be better in other areas. We have played a lot better than that this season.”
A third successive home defeat did little to disperse the gathering gloom on Teesside, while two points from the last 18 on offer suggests Middlesbrough are struggling to acclimatise to the demands of the top flight. Karanka chose to point the finger at rivals Watford.
“They made it impossible for us to play,” said the former Real Madrid assistant coach. “We played well for 35 or 45 minutes, but did not score. After they scored they made it impossible for us. I don’t know how many times they went to the floor and every time the ball went out of play, they took ages.
“They are much more experienced than us and have played many more games than us in the Premier League.”
In fact in was the home side who could perhaps count themselves fortunate to have retained a full complement of players after referee Roger East took a lenient approach to ex-Liverpool and Valencia full-back Antonio Barragan.
Spaniard Barragan had already been booked when he tripped Watford’s record signing Isaac Success as he sprinted towards goal. Success proved a bright spark for Watford on his first Premier League start and had a hand in his side’s winner in the 54th minute.
His run down the left flank was brought to a halt, only for midfielder Marten de Roon’s clearance to be collected by Holebas, whose piledriver from the edge of the penalty area deceived Middlesbrough goalkeeper Victor Valdes.