Stoke City




Watford’s unbeaten start to the Sky Bet Championship campaign came to an end as André Vidigal’s second-half strike separated the two sides at Stoke City’s Bet365 Stadium.

An even opening 45 minutes saw both teams cancel each other out as they looked to gain the upper hand. For the Hornets, Imrân Louza was involved in most positive forward moves, while Wesley Hoedt looked to deny Stoke’s dangerous attack, but neither were able to make a dent on the scoresheet with the match deadlocked at the break.

Despite a bright Watford start to the second half, the home side would open the scoring through Vidigal’s powerful half-volley, leaving the Hornets with it all to do. With a flurry of changes made, the Golden Boys looked to reply as Giorgi Chakvetadze, Tom Ince and others tried to make an instant impact from the bench.

Yáser Asprilla forced a good stop from home goalkeeper Mark Travers and Chakvetadze caused the Potters’ backline problems, but they were unable to overturn the one-goal deficit.

Head Coach Valérien Ismaël made one change from the side that drew 0-0 with Plymouth Argyle last time out, as Jake Livermore made his first start in yellow replacing the injured Francisco Sierralta at the base of midfield.

The Potters kicked the second-tier fixture off with the opening proceedings allowing both sides to take turns in possession. With Livermore occupying a position that saw the former England international drop between the two defenders of Ryan Porteous and Hoedt, Watford held the ball comfortably in the early stages.

The hosts did begin to challenge as the clock crossed over the 10-minute mark, earning the first two corners of the match with the final set-piece climaxing in a wayward shot from Stoke’s Jordan Thompson.

Following a resurgence from the Potters, buoyed on by the home crowd, the Hornets got their first chance of the encounter. Louza released James Morris who fired in a low ball which Vakoun Bayo was unable to turn goalward.

Responding to that Watford pressure, Stoke’s Vidigal broke free from the defence and struck a powerful effort straight at former Potter Daniel Bachmann, who was more than equal to it.

Watford spent the rest of the first half looking to contain Stoke’s attack while attempting to dampen the home crowd, with Alex Neil’s side growing in confidence. Ismaël was forced into a late change before the break as full-back Morris pulled up, with the Hornets boss turning to Asprilla to make the difference, moving Ken Sema to the left-back spot.

Looking to snatch a goal before the break, Ryan Andrews found himself in decent space inside the box, but delayed his effort allowing Enda Stevens to block the shot, meaning both sides were goalless at the whistle.

During half-time, Ismaël made one change replacing Tom Dele-Bashiru for Ismaël Koné, as Watford looked to further progress in the midfield. It seemed to have the desired effect as the Golden Boys began the second period with much more vigour and intent, as Sema weaved his way into the box before Asprilla headed just over the bar.

The early chance was followed up with a long-range strike from Matheus Martins as goalkeeper Travers dived low to his left to keep the ball out.

Despite the strong start, it would be Stoke that would open the scoring as Vidigal fired into the corner of the net from inside the box in impressive style – the first goal Watford had conceded this campaign.

In response, Ismaël turned to his bench again as Louza and Livermore made way for Edo Kayembe and Chakvetadze as the game entered the final half-an-hour, with Ince also coming on, making his Watford debut by replacing Martins 10 minutes later.

It would be the substitutes that would combine to create Watford’s best chance of the half as Chakvetadze picked the ball up before releasing Asprilla. On the half-turn, the Colombian cut back inside before Travers denied him with an outstretched left hand, with Ince nearly collecting the rebound.

The Watford onslaught continued as Sema unleashed a powerful effort that went wide of the mark, followed by a mazy run from Chakvetadze that almost resulted in a spot-kick after he was brought down by a Stoke defender, although referee James Bell waved away any protests.

With five minutes added on to the 90, the Golden Boys continued to press for the equaliser, but weren’t able to deny Stoke all three points. Ismaël’s side will now turn their attention to Blackburn Rovers at home next Sunday (August 27, 12noon KO).


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