Jonathan Walters and Joselu on target as Stoke win at Watford
By Raz Mirza
Last Updated: 20/03/16 1:01pm
Stoke City maintained their European charge by moving into seventh spot in the Premier League thanks to a 2-1 win at Watford.
Jonathan Walters, recalled to the starting line-up due to injuries, broke the deadlock early on, before Joselu doubled their advantage with a piece of individual magic six minutes into the second half.
Troy Deeney set up a nervy finish with a close-range header with four minutes remaining, but City held on to claim maximum points over the FA Cup semi-finalists.
Victory helped Mark Hughes' side leap above Liverpool and Southampton ahead of the pair's clash on Sunday, and to within a point of sixth-placed Manchester United.
The home side, fresh from their cup upset at Arsenal last weekend were the first to threaten when Deeney found the club's top goalscorer Odion Ighalo down the right, but his low drive from just inside the area was well held by an alert Jack Butland.
They fell behind slightly against the run of play thanks to a well-worked goal by Stoke after 18 minutes.
Gianelli Imbula won the ball in the middle of the park and found influential Dutchman Ibrahim Afellay who had enough time to see Phil Bardsley in space wide right.
The full-back delivered an inch-perfect cross for Walters to tap home with ease for his eighth goal of the season.
Hughes' side felt they should have doubled their advantage after 36 minutes when Bardsley was allowed time to surge in behind the Hornets' backline.
He delivered another teasing cross which was missed by Miguel Britos completely, allowing Walters to pounce at the far post for his fifth Premier League goal of the season.
They had the ball in the back of the net shortly after through Marko Arnautovic, but the flag was raised, although replays seemed to suggest the Austria international was hard done by.
The hosts came close to going into the break on level terms when Geoff Cameron deflected the ball into the path of Jurado. The Spaniard rushed through on goal but then panicked and sliced his left-footer high over the crossbar.
After the break Stoke deservedly doubled the advantage when Gomes' scuffed his free-kick straight to Walters who cleverly cushioned the ball through the gap for Joselu to run through and brilliantly lob the advancing 'keeper.
Nordin Amrabat and Adlene Guedioura were brought on for Jurado and Valon Behrami as the Hornets looked to get back into the game.
But it was Stoke who came close to adding a third through Afellay, although Gomes denied him thanks to an outstanding save.
City could not bury their opponents with Arnautovic next to burst through on goal but was unable to slide his effort past Gomes.
With time running out Watford set up a grandstand finish when Deeney met substitute Ikechi Anya's cross to head past Butland who, despite getting both hands to the ball, could not keep it out.
Watford were unable to force an equaliser, however, and Stoke held on for maximum points.
The Hornets remain in 14th position on 37 points but have now won just two of their last 13 Premier League matches.
Soccer Saturday Verdict - Matt Le Tissier
Watford weren't really at it after their FA Cup victory at Arsenal. Stoke got themselves a lead early on and, in fairness, looked comfortable before Joselu made it two just after the break. Gomes will not be happy with his clearance that lead to Stoke's second. He cleared the ball straight to Jon Walters on the halfway line, and credit to him, he cushioned the ball over the back four and Joselu finished it over the stranded 'keeper. At that point there was no coming back for Watford, they scored late on by didn't threaten after that and Stoke were good value.
Watford: Gomes (6) Nyom (6) Cathcart (7) Ake (6) Britos (6) Behrami (7) Mario Suarez (6) Capoue (6) Jurado (7) Ighalo (7) Deeney (7).
Subs: Amrabat (6) Guedioura (7) Anya (7).
Stoke: Butland (6) Bardsley (8) Cameron (7) Wollscheid (7) Muniesa (8) Whelan (6) Imbula (7) Walters (8) Afellay (8) Arnautovic (8) Joselu (8).
Subs: Ireland (5) Diouf (4).
Man of the Match: Ibrahim Afellay