Stoke sneak narrow victory against Watford

19 August 2023 0 By Total Football News

New hero Andre Vidigal scored his fourth goal of the season as Stoke beat Watford 1-0.

The Portuguese winger – who turned 25 in midweek – marked his birthday with a late celebration as he notched a 53rd-minute winner.

It is now four goals in as many games in all competitions for the summer signing from Maritimo, who continues to impress on English soil.

Meanwhile, Watford’s unbeaten league start under new boss Valerien Ismael comes to an end with a disappointing display.

Following successive clean sheets in their opening two league games, the travelling Hornets began resolutely in a cagey opening to the fixture.

Twenty minutes passed until either side had a sight at goal with Watford the first to threaten.

A drilled James Morris shot flashed across the face of goal and only marginally alluded the outstretched Vakoun Bayo.

Stoke gradually grew into the fixture and, unsurprisingly, it was lively new recruit Vidigal who inspired the hosts.

The stylish forward twice came close in quick succession, first forcing a stop from Daniel Bachmann before then being thwarted by heroic Hornets defending.

Despite an uneventful opening period, the tie burst into life after the restart with Ismael’s outfit appearing the likelier to break the deadlock.

A cute piece of trickery from Ken Sema was followed by an inviting cutback, but substitute Yaser Asprilla could not direct his header on target.

Fellow attacker Matheus Martins also tried his luck and his venomous strike from range was destined for the bottom corner, if not for the intervention of Mark Travers.

However, the visitors’ bright start to the half was not rewarded as Alex Neil’s Potters snatched the advantage thanks to a moment of brilliance.

A deep Ki-Jana Hoever delivery found Vidigal, who chested down and rifled in an emphatic half-volley on the swivel into the top corner.

Buoyed by their breakthrough, Stoke quickly asserted their dominance as they looked to tighten their grip on the tie.

And the hosts came close to doubling their lead when Jordan Thompson collected in a dangerous position, but his strike was just over the target.

Watford rallied in their pursuit of a leveller and their best opportunity of the game fell to Asprilla.

The 19-year-old Colombia international advanced dangerously into the area, cut inside and unleashed a fierce strike, but Travers saved well.

A lively Sema then saw an audacious long-range effort whistle agonisingly wide of goal as The Potters held onto their slender advantage.

Forward Ryan Mmaee came close to opening his account for the hosts following a summer switch from Ferencvaros, but he dragged his strike wide late on.

The managers

Stoke’s Alex Neil:

“We’ve now won three games on the bounce at home and I think that’s vitally important to get our fans onside and backing us.

“You can see that connection starting to happen because the fans can see that the players left everything on the pitch so I’m really pleased.

“Watford are a really good side and they’ll be at the top end of the division for me so we knew it was going to be tough.

“In the main, we contained them really well, defensively we were sound and we got a goal that changed the dynamic of the game.

“You could see today that we were good in both boxes in terms of that final strike to get a goal and when we needed Travers at the other end.”

Watford’s Valerien Ismael:

“Our performance in the first half was not good enough and we didn’t stick to our game plan. We created chances but it wasn’t enough and we weren’t present in the basics.

“If you are not having a good day, at least make sure you get the basics right and we didn’t do that.

“That’s what I said at half-time and in the second half we came out much better, but we conceded a goal in our best period of the game.

“We created a lot of chances after that so at least we saw our identity, but it’s a journey in this division. The players need to learn that the Championship is ruthless and every game you’ve got to be on it and if you think it is going to be easy you will be punished like today.”

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