A match with little flow and plenty of whistles saw an early Charlie Adam header earn three points at Vicarage Road in an otherwise uninspiring match with little goal action.
Adam’s first half-hour finished as he put a header off the goalkeeper into the back of the net, technically an own-goal but Mark Hughes will take it nonetheless.
The visitors started the brightest, and had the best early chance on six minutes as Mame Biram Diouf had an acrobatic go, but his bicycle kick plowed into the face of Etienne Capoue. The rebound fell to Bruno Martins Indi just inside the top of the box, who ripped a good effort on goal, but it was straight at Heurelho Gomes, who saved comfortably.
The game was quite open through the first 20 minutes, but with no goals to come, it devolved into a foul fest with a pair of yellows shown before the half-hour mark. Watford was forced into a change, as Christian Kabasale had to come on in place of Younes Kaboul, who went off injured.
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Just before the 30-minute mark, Stoke had a deserved lead. A corner from Xherdan Shaqiri swing in to Charlie Adam, and his precise header struck the left post, pinged across the line and pinged into Gomes, and into the back of the net for an own-goal off the goalkeeper.
Through the rest of the first half, there was less action on net than with the referee’s whistle, as Bobby Madley was forced to earn his paycheck for the day. Jose Holebas sliced through the Stoke penalty area incisively in first-half added time, but a pinpoint tackle by Glen Johnson ended the chance and the half.
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In the second half, Stoke continued to have the better chances. Holebas pulled up lame on the ball just two minutes after the break, which began a 2-on-1 counter for the Potters. Shaqiri charged down the left on the ball, and his great cross to the far post was just inches out of reach for Walters, who for some reason didn’t even give the effort a chance despite appearing to be potentially within range.
The hosts were forced into a second change, as Holebas limped off in favor of Odion Ighalo. The game plodded on through the second half with little action to show for it. Watford had its best chance of the second half with a spell in front of net with 10 minutes remaining that ended as Daryl Janmaat fired over.
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The second half ended without a shot on target for either side, and a disappointing finish for Watford left them still in a promising eighth in the table but without any points from a game that begged to be won. In the dying moments, Miguel Britos was sent off with a minute left in regulation after pulling down Shaqiri to earn his second yellow card. In addition, a yellow card to Valon Behrami in injury time means he will be suspended next time out, as Watford could be dangerously thin next weekend against West Brom.
For Stoke, the three points sees them slide into the top half of the table, moving up to 10th on 16 points.