Troy Deeney saw his penalty saved as Watford drew 0-0 with Tottenham on Saturday, extending Nigel Pearson’s unbeaten Premier League run to six games and further damaging Spurs’ Champions League ambitions.
The key moment at Vicarage Road came with 20 minutes to go when Spurs goalkeeper Paulo Gazzaniga dived low to his left to keep out the Watford captain’s spot kick.
Spurs came agonisingly close to snatching the win in stoppage time only for Watford substitute Ignacio Pussetto, making his debut for the club, to clear an Erik Lamela effort off the line.
But it was another point claimed during Watford’s resurgence under Pearson, who has now overseen a run of four wins and two draws in his past six league games.
AFP / Adrian DENNIS
Watford’s Ignacio Pussetto clears the ball off the line during the closing minutes of the Premier League match against Tottenham
The result is frustrating for Jose Mourinho, whose team, without the injured Harry Kane and with uncertainty over the future of Christian Eriksen, could be 11 points off fourth spot by the end of the day.
Mourinho was pleased with Tottenham’s performance but admitted they missed the physical presence of the injured Moussa Sissoko and Harry Kane, and Kane’s eye for goal.
The Spurs boss said he would like to boost his forward options in the January transfer window but only if the right options became available.
“This is not the last match in Tottenham’s history,” he said.
“Next Wednesday we have another one and next season we have many more so we have to be calm, be loyal to these boys, also respecting everything they try to do and if it happens it happens.”
Pearson praised his side despite the disappointment of the missed penalty but said they were not yet out of the woods.
“I give the players credit for the fact that they’ve embraced the situation for what it is,” he said. “They understand where we are and they’ve not shirked responsibility.”
He added: “We’ve got to deal with the fact that we’re in a relegation battle and what we’ve produced recently is good but that’s the baseline for us.”
Before kick-off there was a warm tribute from the fans for former manager Graham Taylor, who died three years ago.
But was the visitors who settled first, finding their rhythm from the kick-off and dominating the opening 15 minutes.
Son Heung-min looked lively on the left of Tottenham’s attack and had the first shot on target but despite all their possession Watford goalkeeper Ben Foster rarely looked troubled.
– Watford threat –
The home side gradually worked their way into the game and started to see more of the ball.
There was a long interruption just before the half hour when referee Michael Oliver’s battery equipment suffered a technical failure which may have stopped him checking a potentially dangerous foul by Etienne Capoue on Japhet Tanganga, with the Watford man escaping a card completely.
While Oliver tried to sort out the problem on the touchline, the frustrated crowd chanted: “It’s not football any more.”
Foster saved from Son in the 30th minute and was off his line smartly to keep out a sharp Lucas Moura shot after a delightful through ball from Dele Alli.
Watford flew out of the blocks in the second half and could have been 2-0 up but for some poor finishing.
First Abdoulaye Doucoure scuffed the ball just wide after good work down the right by the dangerous Ismaila Sarr before Sarr himself failed to connect properly from close range.
Although Watford were now well on top, Spurs continued to look dangerous on the break.
Alli could not keep a header down from Son’s cross and then the South Korean blazed over when he burst clear.
The potentially decisive moment came with about 20 minutes to go when Spurs captain Jan Vertonghen was booked for handling Gerard Deulofeu’s shot in the penalty area.
Deeney stepped up and struck his shot firmly but Gazzaniga dived to his right to keep the ball out.
Mourinho brought Eriksen off the bench and later introduced new signing Gedson Fernandes but the match finished goalless.