Aston Villa 0-1 Watford: Player ratings as Dennis gives Hornets vital victory

Emmanuel Dennis' late header gave Watford a 1-0 victory at Aston Villa on Saturday afternoon.

The win is Roy Hodgson's first in charge of the club and represents a huge boost for the Hornets, who rode out waves of pressure throughout proceedings in order to snatch a vital win in their battle for Premier League survival.

The hosts predictably started brightest, showing very promising signs in the early stages with Danny Ings in particular worrying Hodgson's side, although it was actually the visitors that squandered the best opportunity inside the opening 15 minutes.

Ismaila Sarr did fantastically to recover possession and skilfully break out of his defensive third before surging upfield and releasing Dennis, who brilliantly sidestepped his way into the area and forced Emi Martinez into a picture book stop.

Villa's intensity began to fade as time progressed, but Steven Gerrard's side should have found the back of the net just after the half-hour mark. Ings was responsible for the danger once more, running off the shoulder of his man and taking Emi Buendia's pass in his stride, only for the ball to flick off the outside of the post rather than nestle into the bottom corner. Replays, however, confirmed that the Villa striker would have been called offside by a VAR check had the ball gone in, anyway.

Gerrard's men continued to probe for the game's opening goal but, despite a dominant - albeit unfruitful - start to the second half, it was Watford who found themselves with a gilt-edged opportunity on 55 minutes. Moussa Sissoko was put through on goal by Josh King's perfectly weighted through ball, before disappointingly thrashing into the side netting at Martinez's near post.

If anyone thought that would spur the hosts into life, they would have been wrong. Although playing some nice football, Villa continued to struggle in their attempt to find penetrative actions at the business end of the pitch.

Philippe Coutinho almost notched a worldie around the 70-minute mark, dipping the ball onto the roof of the net from 25 yards out, although that's as close as the hosts came to putting the ball in the net, increasingly frustrating the home fans.

And that lack of potency was punished as Dennis struck with just over ten minutes remaining. The goal came from a break upfield, in which Sarr eventually stood the ball up to the back post with a delicious delivery, giving the Hornets' leading marksman no choice but to thump a header past Martinez as he beat Ashley Young to the ball.

Incredibly, the only team that looked like getting the game's second was Watford, who were content enough to see the game out for a gargantuan victory.

Here's how the players rated...

Aston Villa player ratings

1. Goalkeeper & defenders

Tyrone Mings battling hard | Lewis Storey/GettyImages

Emi Martinez (GK) - 6/10 - Made three stunning stops throughout but had no prayer of keeping out Dennis' match-winning goal.

Matty Cash (RB) - 7/10 - Bombed forward continuously, giving Hassane Kamara a headache all afternoon, while also remaining resolute at the back, managing seven ball recoveries.

Calum Chambers (CB) - 5/10 - Neat and tidy, but probably should have held a better position for the cross that led to the goal.

Tyrone Mings (CB) - 6/10 - Alert to the danger and largely assured in his duties.

Lucas Digne (LB) - 5/10 - Matched Cash's dynamism by marauding upfield and providing a real creative threat with that left peg, but failed to cut out Sarr's fatal cross.

2. Midfielders

Jacob Ramsey wasn't as influential as he can be | Lewis Storey/GettyImages

Douglas Luiz (DM) - 4/10 - Occasionally left his side liable to the counter and wasn't clinical enough on the ball. Rightly hooked off before the hour mark.

John McGinn (CM) - 6/10 - Two hearty tackles - to put it nicely - in the first two minutes set the tone for his afternoon; aggressive, dynamic and effective throughout.

Jacob Ramsey (CM) - 6/10 - Singlehandedly switched up the intensity with individual bursts of energy at times and was the personification of positivity in the second half - but couldn't quite put his stamp on proceedings.

3. Forwards

Emi Buendia was Aston Villa's most creative threat | Lewis Storey/GettyImages

Emi Buendia (RF) - 7/10 - Really lively and very eager to drop into space and make things happen and looked most likely to do so for the hosts, registering five key passes throughout.

Danny Ings (ST) - 5/10 - A real danger with his movement but failed to show sharpness in front of goal.

Philippe Coutinho (LF) - 6/10 - Drifted around brilliantly, providing a pivot on which Villa could so often build play progressively. Wasn't directly impactful, however.

4. Substitutes

Ollie Watkins (ST) - 6/10 - Was an immediate spark and provided a platform upon which Villa could build play further up the field.

Ashley Young (RB) - 3/10 - Beaten far too easily for Watford's strike.

Leon Bailey (RF) - 5/10

Watford player ratings

5. Goalkeeper & defenders

Ben Foster didn't have much to do | Craig Mercer/MB Media/GettyImages

Ben Foster (GK) - 6/10 - Tasked with making one save; won't have captured that much content for his YouTube channel.

Kiko Femenia (RB) - 6/10 - Diligent in defensive duties, always quick to close down his opposition, while his overlapping run played a subtle but important part in the goal.

Craig Cathcart (CB) - 6/10 - Composed and resilient at the heart of defence, dealing well with tricky opposition.

Samir (CB) - 6/10 - Looked quite clumsy at times but generally stood firm, registering three ball recoveries and six clearances.

Hassane Kamara (LB) - 5/10 - Really uncomfortable when Villa pressed with intent, producing some very sloppy moments, but didn't look at all bad when the match lost its intensity in parts.

6. Midfielders

Moussa Sissoko had a decent outing | James Williamson - AMA/GettyImages

Imran Louza (DM) - 7/10 - Fared well, proving a very effective screen to his back four as well as spreading play efficiently,

Moussa Sissoko (CM) - 6/10 - Made up a lot of ground and was, for the majority, dominant in his duels - but really should have put his side ahead early in the second half.

Tom Cleverley (CM) - 6/10 - Tenacious and combative without much of a creative output.

7. Forwards

Ismaila Sarr (RW) - 8/10 - Bright on his first Watford start since November, looking the Hornets' most creative and progressive threat - notably getting a lovely assist.

Josh King (ST) - 5/10 - Unlucky not to have claimed an assist after playing Sissoko through on goal but was hardly involved at all.

Emmanuel Dennis (LW) - 8/10 - A brilliant save from Martinez denied him a goal in the early stages but the Argentine could do nothing about his bullet header for the winner.

8. Substitutes

Ken Sema (LW) - N/A

Christian Kabasele (CB) - N/A

Juan Hernandez (RW) - N/A

Source : 90min