Roberto Pereyra scored both goals - including a sublime volley - as Watford began the new Premier League season with a comfortable 2-0 win over Brighton & Hove Albion at Vicarage Road.
Javi Gracia's hosts controlled the game throughout to pick up the three points against a travel-sick Brighton side who, despite a busy transfer window, carried little threat in attack to continue a worrying trend on the road.
Pereyra opened the scoring in the 35th minute with the one moment of genuine quality in a first half where Watford huffed and puffed in open play without enjoying too much success.
However, a clever set-piece move saw the hosts deservedly take the lead. Jose Holebas' deep corner picked out his unmarked team-mate on the edge of the penalty area, allowing Pereyra to unleash a volley that goalkeeper Mat Ryan could only palm into the top right corner of his net.
Brighton’s goalkeeper had managed to keep out earlier attempts from strike duo Troy Deeney and Andre Gray, while the visitors barely bothered Ben Foster – making his second debut for Watford over a decade on from a successful two-year loan spell - at the other end before the break.
Holebas' left foot should have led to Watford doubling their lead early in the second half, his sumptuous free-kick from deep carelessly headed over by a diving Christian Kabasele, but they did not have to wait much longer for a second to arrive.
Having helped seize possession high up the field, Pereyra drifted in from the left without ever coming under pressure from a Brighton player, allowing him to curl a right-footed shot beyond Ryan.
Substitute Yves Bissouma fired narrowly wide following his introduction but Chris Hughton's team - who finished 2017-18 with the worst away record in the Premier League - will need to improve on their travels if they are to maintain their top-flight status for a second successive season.
What it means: Do not write off Watford
Some suggested this could be the season Watford’s Premier League status was in serious danger, particularly after the departure of Richarlison to Everton.
Yet the Hornets – who have not lost on the opening day of a campaign since 2006 – showed there is life without the Brazilian forward, even with the absence of Gerard Deulofeu through injury. They pressed a lethargic Brighton throughout and, with Deeney and Gray up front together in tandem, always posed a physical threat.
An unusually quiet window may actually benefit Spanish coach Gracia, and their opening outing once again demonstrated how they will be tough to beat, particularly in their own back yard.
Pat on the back: Pereyra shows his class
Pereyra's quality was never in doubt - this is a player who appeared for Juventus in a Champions League final - but he has a tendency to blow hot and cold. This, though, was one of the good days, with the Argentine midfielder demonstrating his technical ability with a fabulous opener. Watford will hope this is the start of a productive season for Pereyra, who is already well on the way to bettering last season's tally of five league goals.
Boot up the backside: Hughton's away-day blues
Brighton added a plethora of new faces in the hope of solving their scoring issues on the road, yet a familiar-looking starting XI continued the worrying trend of looking toothless away from the Amex Stadium. It is up to the boss to work out a system and style of play that will produce an improvement - and quickly.
Key Opta Stats:
6 - Roberto Pereyra has been directly involved in each of Watford's last six goals in the Premier League, scoring five and assisting the other one. Fundamental. pic.twitter.com/tztysM5nSq — OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) August 11, 2018
- Watford are unbeaten in their last 12 opening games to a league season (W6 D6), with their last defeat coming against Everton in August 2006.
- Brighton are winless in their last 14 Premier League away games (W0 D4 L10), the longest current such run in the division.
- Watford’s Roberto Pereyra has scored five Premier League goals in his last five games at Vicarage Road, this after netting just three in his previous 19.
- Ben Foster made his first Premier League appearance for Watford since 13th May 2007 vs Newcastle (4108 days ago) - the second-longest gap between two games for a single team in the competition after Wayne Rooney for Everton (4837 days).
Brighton’s opening home fixture is a daunting one – they host Manchester United next Sunday – while Watford travel to Turf Moor to face Burnley earlier on the same day.