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Player Watch: Matej Vydra

When I took to my seat at the Amex in anticipation of Brighton and Hove Albion’s game against Watford on the 29th December, there was one name that I was particularly wary of; Matej Vydra.

Now Vydra was not a player I knew a lot about, in fact the only time I had witnessed him playing football was what I had seen on The Football League Show on Saturday evenings, but that was enough to convince me this kid was something special. Some of the touches that he produced to leave top-quality defenders for dead made me dread what he was going to do to our lethargic backline.

The first 10 minutes passed without the 20-year-old getting a sniff of the ball, nor the entire Watford for that matter, as Brighton dominated the game. That changed however and Watford ignited their stylish, high-tempo passing game that Gianfranco Zola has implemented on the Hornets, with neat triangles creating space just in front of Tomasz Kuszczak’s penalty area, and Jonathan Hogg was the man to pull the trigger forcing a decent save.

This was when Vydra took the game by the scruff of the neck and really pulled Watford into power. Another neat passage of play ended when the young Czech curled a shot towards the corner of the net, but the big Pole in goal was again at hand to palm away.

The way Vydra is able to move the ball without having to think about where he is going to put it is something alluring, and it eventually led to his team taking the lead. They used the pace of their attack to exploit the Albion back four and Troy Deeney was at hand to drill the ball beneath the keeper.

The opener gave Vydra even more creative freedom and you could tell it was only a matter of time before he got on the score-sheet. The visitors played some delightful stuff and you could feel the confidence beaming from their players from the stands, something which largely evaded the Brighton team, but when a mix-up at the back allowed Kazenga LuaLua to nick the ball away from a flailing Manuel Almunia, it gave the Seagulls a chance to level from the spot. David Lopez stepped up and started what looked to be a Brighton revival, but that never happened.

In fact it was quite the opposite. Within 4 minutes of the penalty hitting the net, Vydra had scored his 11th and 12th of the season, the former a driving run with a fortunate deflection to help the ball loop over a stranded Kuszscak from distance and the latter a lethal counter-attack which allowed him to use his blistering pace to overturn the 10-yard difference between himself and Adam El-Abd before smashing the ball low into the goal and running to the away end to celebrate, and deservedly so.

Rarely have I seen a player with such raw speed and composure of the forward on loan from Udinese during my 10-years watching the Albion, and if Watford manage to sign the youngster on a permanent deal this month as he strongly expected, then the Vicarage Road outfit have one hell of a player at their disposal.