The battle between new Southampton manager Claude Puel and his equally fresh Watford counterpart Walter Mazzarri ended in a 1-1 draw in Saturday’s Premier League opener at St Mary’s.
Etienne Capoue put Watford ahead early on, but Nathan Redmond levelled on his debut for Southampton following his move from relegated Norwich City.
Mazzarri, Watford’s Italian head coach, was probably more satisfied with the point after his substitute, Ben Watson, was sent off for pulling back Shane Long to leave the visitors with 10 men for the last 15 minutes.
His team adapted with more ease to his 3-5-2 system than Southampton did to Puel’s midfield diamond.
Dusan Tadic impressed in his new central role, but Redmond seemed unsure of his correct position for much of the game.
Both systems will, no doubt, improve with familiarity, and Mazzarri, for one, has said that he expects the Watford owners, the Pozzo family, to fund the purchase of two or three new players.
Puel failed to become the first Southampton manager since Paul Sturrock to win his first game in charge, but will be pleased that his team battled back from behind and that Redmond found the net.
The Frenchman had compared Redmond’s move from winger to striker with that of Thierry Henry, with whom he worked at Monaco. He looks nowhere near that level yet, but time is on his side.
It could have been worse for Puel as Watford embarrassed his defence after only nine minutes.
Right wing-back Nordin Amrabat crossed from the right and Troy Deeney was allowed to climb unchallenged at the far post to nod the ball across goal.
As the home players stood immobile, Capoue volleyed past Fraser Forster.
Tadic threatened to lift the home crowd when he dribbled past two defenders on the right and crossed towards the head of Long.
But the Irishman nodded wide, before complaining with some justification that Amrabat had been pulling his shirt.
It was a rare moment of danger from Southampton.
More typical was an incident in the 39th minute when James Ward-Prowse dribbled through to the goal-line and delivered a dangerous low cross, only to find the penalty area mysteriously empty of teammates.
It took until the 56th minute for Southampton to test Gomes, and he was equal to it.
Redmond, this time on the left, took Tadic’s pass and cut inside. The goalkeeper got his fingertips to the ball and deflected it around the post for a corner.
That was cleared at the expense of another and this time it was Watford’s turn to stand still.
Gomes’s attempt to punch clear dropped to Redmond 15 yards out. No defender made a move to close him down and his volley went past Gomes’s right hand and in.
Southampton were handed a potentially decisive advantage after 75 minutes when substitute Watson, outpaced by Long, dragged the Ireland forward back and was shown a red card by referee Roger East.
Watford claimed that a covering defender had been coming across and that Watson was not therefore the last man, but East was unmoved.
Redmond thought he had claimed a second goal until the referee’s assistant raised his flag, but a draw was a fair result.