Jamie Vardy and Harvey Barnes each scored twice as Roy Hodgson’s final home match in charge of relegated Watford ended in an embarrassing defeat to Leicester.
João Pedro’s deflected effort gave the hosts an early lead in front of the incoming head coach Rob Edwards. But familiar defensive issues contributed to their downfall as James Maddison’s leveller and two goals each from Vardy and Barnes condemned them to a 26th Premier League loss of a miserable campaign.
Leicester’s victory was relatively straightforward after their ongoing set-piece frailties were exposed early on and keeps them on course for a fifth-successive top-half finish. Meanwhile, Watford’s latest blow equals the overall top-flight record of 15 home defeats in a season and leaves Edwards in little doubt about the major summer overhaul required.
Hodgson, who turns 75 in August, will depart Hertfordshire having failed to win on home soil and with just next weekend’s trip to Chelsea to improve a paltry return of nine points from 51 available since his January appointment. Edwards, who led Forest Green to the League Two title this term, received a ripple of applause as he was unveiled to a sparsely-populated stadium ahead of kick-off.
How many of the current squad will be at his disposal in the Championship next season remains to be seen but he had reason for early encouragement as the injury-hit hosts raced ahead. Leicester made a mess of repelling a corner from Ken Sema and, following a couple of ricochets, Pedro fired home via a substantial touch from Timothy Castagne.
Brendan Rodgers’ team have now conceded a league-high 26 times from set-pieces this term. They almost fell further behind following another Sema corner but Adam Masina’s instinctive prod came back off the crossbar, before the goalkeeper Danny Ward was alert to deny Pedro moments later.
Hodgson believes Watford are well placed to bounce back to the top flight next term. Yet his team’s afternoon soon began to fall apart as defensive issues, which have dogged a dismal season, allowed the dominant visitors to turn the game on its head in a clinical five-minute spell.
Craig Cathcart – a late addition to an initially unchanged starting XI after Samir was injured in the warm-up – collided with Masina as they attempted to deal with Jonny Evans’ long ball over the top and, faced with Ben Foster, Youri Tielemans calmly teed up Maddison for a simple finish into the roof of the empty net. Matters were swiftly compounded, with Foster at fault on this occasion.
The former England goalkeeper rushed to the edge of his box in a bid to punch clear Maddison’s diagonal delivery but was beaten to the ball by Vardy, who gleefully headed into the unguarded goal with just 22 minutes on the clock. Travelling fans wasted little time in taunting their lowly hosts, only to be dismissed with chants of “You’re nothing special, we lose every week”.
Both sides opted for changes at the break, with Hassane Kamara replacing Dan Gosling for the hosts and Marc Albrighton on for his Leicester teammate Nampalys Mendy. The visitors’ alteration had an instant impact. Approximately 17 seconds after the restart, Albrighton delivered an inviting cross from the right and the unmarked Barnes was on hand to divert a low volley under Foster at the far post.
Vardy – who also claimed a brace in the midweek win over Norwich – capitalised on another Cathcart misjudgement to race clear and put the result beyond doubt with 20 minutes to go. Watford’s misery was compounded four minutes from time as Maddison fed Barnes, who expertly drilled across goal and into the bottom-right corner. It prompted more boos from the disgruntled home support, albeit some stayed behind to applaud their team during a low-key lap of honour.