Stoke 0-0 Watford: Javi Gracia picks up first point after goalless draw
Last Updated: 01/02/18 8:57am
Javi Gracia picked up his first point as Watford boss after his side held Stoke to a 0-0 draw at the bet365 Stadium on Wednesday evening.
In a game of very few clear-cut chances, Eric Maxim Choupo-Moting fired wide midway through the first half before Richarlison failed to convert Watford debutant Gerard Deulofeu's cross just before the break.
Stoke, who moved out of the relegation places, paraded new £14m signing Badou Ndiaye at half-time but the Senegal international did not bring the hosts any luck as the scrappy nature of the contest continued.
Xherdan Shaqiri went closest to a winner for the hosts but his powerful strike was palmed to safety by Orestis Karnezis as both sides had to settle for a share of the spoils.
Stoke: Butland (7), Bauer (6), Zouma (7), Shawcross (7), Pieters (6), Shaqiri (7), Allen (6), Adam (6), Fletcher (5), Choupo-Moting (7), Diouf (6).
Subs: Crouch (6), Berahino (n/a).
Watford: Karnezis (7), Kabasele (6), Mariappa (6), Prodl (6), Holebas (6), Deulofeu (7), Doucoure (6), Capoue (7), Cleverley (6), Richarlison (7), Deeney (7).
Subs: Gray (6), Carrillo (n/a), Pereyra (6).
Man of the match: Gerard Deulofeu.
The opening chance of the night fell to Sebastian Prodl in the second minute but Jack Butland got down well to smother the shot.
Watford were unable to build on that positive start but Stoke also struggled to find any sort of rhythm and it took until the 26th minute for them to create an opening, Adrian Mariappa blocking Charlie Adam's shot before Choupo-Moting curled the rebound wide of the far post.
At the other end, Butland had to tip Jose Holebas' corner kick against the crossbar and just before half-time Watford went close again when Deulofeu's cross was met at the near post by Richarlison, but he prodded his effort wide.
After the break, Mame Biram Diouf was perhaps lucky to escape with only a yellow card after shoving Christian Kabasele off-the-ball, although replays showed the Watford defender going to ground particularly easy.
After making a winning start against Huddersfield 11 days ago, Stoke boss Paul Lambert picked the same starting line up. Javi Gracia made four changes after seeing Watford go out of the FA Cup at Southampton on Saturday. New signing Gerard Deulofeu made his debut while Tom Cleverley and Troy Deeney returned from injury and Sebastien Prodl was recalled.
Stoke's best chance fell to Shaqiri but the Swiss star's powerful drive was kept out by Karnezis, who also saved from Crouch before Ryan Shawcross slid in to block Abdoulaye Doucoure's goal-bound effort in the 70th minute.
Substitute Roberto Pereyra had one final chance to win the game late on when a loose ball fell to him 10 yards out, but Butland was alert to the danger, block at his near post to preserve the point which lifted Stoke back out of the relegation places.
At least one team has failed to score in 11 of the last 12 league meetings between these two sides (15 goals total).
Stoke City have gone five games unbeaten against the Hornets in the Football League (W4 D1) for the first time since April 1995 (run of six).
All six of Watford's Premier League managers have now failed to win their first game in charge of the club in the competition (D4 L2). Indeed, each of their last four such bosses, including Javi Gracia, have drawn their Premier League opener with the Hornets (also Quique Sanchez Flores, Walter Mazzarri and Marco Silva).
Stoke City have picked up four points from their two Premier League games under Paul Lambert (W1 D1), as many as they had in their previous eight prior to his arrival (W1 D1 L6).
Watford have failed to win any of their first four league games in a calendar year for the second consecutive year having also done so in 2017.
Gerard Deulofeu made his first Premier League appearance since he lined up against his current club Watford on the 10th of December 2016 whilst at Everton, 417 days ago.
Man of the Match - Gerard Deulofeu
On a night where the defences dominated, Deulofeu showed some bright moments that will give the Watford fans some hope.
The loan signing from Barcelona was involved Watford's best moments going forward, his early cross almost created the opening goal for Richarlison in the first-half , while his cut back in the second-half picked out Doucoure, but the midfielder's shot was brilliantly blocked by Shawcross.
All in all it was a solid night's work for the Spaniard, who will hope to build on his performance against Chelsea next week.
Both sides are back in Premier League action at the weekend with Stoke travelling to Bournemouth on Saturday, while Watford host Chelsea, live on Monday Night Football.
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