Match ends, Stoke City 0, Watford 0.
Stoke City 0-0 Watford
Stoke moved out of the bottom three after a meeting of the Premier League's two newest managers produced a low-quality stalemate with Watford.
Paul Lambert's men kept back-to-back Premier League clean sheets for the first time since March last year, as captain Ryan Shawcross blocked from Abdoulaye Doucoure and the Hornets' Brazilian forward Richarlison missed from close range.
Watford, under new coach Javi Gracia for the second time, also had to call on goalkeeper Orestis Karnezis, who denied Xherdan Shaqiri's fierce volley, and were thankful Mame Biram Diouf sent an early diving header wide.
The Potters, who introduced their £14m new midfield signing Badou Ndiaye on the pitch at half-time, moved up two places in the table from 18th to 16th.
A tight contest opened up in the last 15 minutes as both teams committed men forward in search of a winner, with substitute Peter Crouch going close for the hosts and Doucoure shooting wide.
But Gracia too can point to a strong defensive display from his new players, who had more possession than the home side and saw Barcelona loanee Gerard Deulofeu enjoy a lively debut.
Intensity key but finesse required
Intensity has been the buzzword of Paul Lambert's time at Stoke so far.
He spoke of its importance to the way he wants his team to play before this game, and repeated it afterwards.
"I want us to try to be on the front foot every time, not letting teams play if we can. We want to be energetic and enthusiastic for the game and we have a gameplan we want to stick to," he said.
There was plenty of energy on Wednesday, at times spilling over into aggression during a scrappy clash; Stoke collected four bookings, the visitors three.
For now the Scot may take solace that his team are buying into his essentials. They did enough to creep away from the relegation zone and continued to tighten up a defence that has conceded the most goals (50) in the league.
The addition of Ndiaye from Galatasaray will add further energy and bustle too.
But going forward Stoke require more finesse in front of goal to really pull away from danger.
The Potters had four shots on target, twice as many as the opposition, but only Shaqiri really tested Watford's stand-in keeper Karnezis.
A promising debut for winger
From Barcelona, via Goodison and Milan, Deulofeu - once a team-mate of Lionel Messi at the Nou Camp - got to answer that cliched question here: can he do it on a wet Wednesday in Stoke?
The answer from the 23-year-old was, on this evidence, yes.
Watford signed the former Everton winger on loan from Barca until the end of the season on Monday, and a player who flattered to deceive at times during 62 Premier League appearances for the Toffees impressed on his return to England.
He is the first signing made by Watford since they appointed former Malaga boss Gracia earlier this month, and he made an instant impact with three key passes, some eye-catching footwork and several good deliveries from the right.
Richarlison should have done better from a pin-point cross from the Spaniard in the first half, and near the end Deulofeu's quick feet sent him past Erik Pieters and Darren Fletcher to create another chance that Jack Butland saved from Roberto Pereyra.
He's quick too, running faster at one point than anyone else on the pitch at 33.93 km/h and could be a bold, creative outlet for a side struggling with its confidence.
Lambert getting basics right - the stats
- 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).
- At least one team has failed to score in 11 of the past 12 league meetings between these two sides (15 goals total).
- Stoke have gone five games unbeaten against the Hornets in the 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 past four, including Javi Gracia, have drawn their Premier League opener (also Quique Sanchez Flores, Walter Mazzarri and Marco Silva).
- 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 while at Everton, 417 days ago.
Man of the Match - Abdoulaye Doucoure (Watford)
We might have lost it a few weeks ago - what they said
Stoke manager Paul Lambert: "I thought they were better than us first half. And I thought we were better second half.
"But four points and two clean sheets is a good start for me and the team because it keeps the momentum.
"It's a game we might have lost a few weeks ago, but it probably wasn't a spectacle like the first game was (v Huddersfield).
"It's [Watford's] prerogative how they want to play. They are a hard team to play against because of the physical aspect to their game and they go pretty direct to their front lads, but the onus is on us to make the running."
Watford manager Javi Gracia on Deulofeu: "Gerard played well and made a big effort to create and add balance to our team.
"I am happy with his work and I hope he will improve as the level of the team does."
Stoke travel to Bournemouth on Saturday (15:00 GMT) while Watford host Chelsea on Monday (20:00 GMT).
- 2BauerBooked at 35mins
- 3PietersBooked at 59mins
- 16AdamBooked at 21minsSubstituted forCrouchat 60'minutes
- 18DioufBooked at 52minsSubstituted forBerahinoat 85'minutes
- 27KabaseleBooked at 18mins
- 25HolebasBooked at 47mins
- 16DoucouréBooked at 90mins
- 8CleverleySubstituted forPereyraat 72'minutes
- 7DeulofeuSubstituted forCarrilloat 88'minutes
- 11RicharlisonSubstituted forGrayat 68'minutes
- Jonathan Moss
- Shots on Target
Second Half ends, Stoke City 0, Watford 0.
Abdoulaye Doucouré (Watford) is shown the yellow card.
Foul by Abdoulaye Doucouré (Watford).
Peter Crouch (Stoke City) wins a free kick in the attacking half.
Attempt saved. Ryan Shawcross (Stoke City) header from the centre of the box is saved in the centre of the goal. Assisted by Xherdan Shaqiri with a cross.
Corner, Stoke City. Conceded by Adrian Mariappa.
Substitution, Watford. André Carrillo replaces Gerard Deulofeu.
Foul by Abdoulaye Doucouré (Watford).
Eric Maxim Choupo-Moting (Stoke City) wins a free kick on the left wing.
Substitution, Stoke City. Saido Berahino replaces Mame Biram Diouf.
Attempt missed. Abdoulaye Doucouré (Watford) right footed shot from outside the box misses to the left. Assisted by Gerard Deulofeu following a corner.
Corner, Watford. Conceded by Jack Butland.
Attempt saved. Roberto Pereyra (Watford) left footed shot from the centre of the box is saved in the bottom left corner. Assisted by Abdoulaye Doucouré.
Sebastian Prödl (Watford) wins a free kick in the defensive half.
Foul by Peter Crouch (Stoke City).
Adrian Mariappa (Watford) wins a free kick in the defensive half.
Foul by Xherdan Shaqiri (Stoke City).
Corner, Watford. Conceded by Ryan Shawcross.
Attempt blocked. Roberto Pereyra (Watford) right footed shot from outside the box is blocked. Assisted by Abdoulaye Doucouré.
Offside, Stoke City. Kurt Zouma tries a through ball, but Xherdan Shaqiri is caught offside.
Foul by Etienne Capoue (Watford).
Erik Pieters (Stoke City) wins a free kick on the left wing.
Substitution, Watford. Roberto Pereyra replaces Tom Cleverley because of an injury.
Delay over. They are ready to continue.
Delay in match Tom Cleverley (Watford) because of an injury.
Foul by Tom Cleverley (Watford).
Xherdan Shaqiri (Stoke City) wins a free kick on the right wing.
Corner, Watford. Conceded by Joe Allen.
Attempt blocked. Troy Deeney (Watford) left footed shot from the centre of the box is blocked.
Attempt blocked. Abdoulaye Doucouré (Watford) left footed shot from the centre of the box is blocked. Assisted by Andre Gray.
Substitution, Watford. Andre Gray replaces Richarlison.
Attempt missed. Peter Crouch (Stoke City) right footed shot from the right side of the six yard box is close, but misses to the right.
Tom Cleverley (Watford) wins a free kick in the defensive half.
Foul by Moritz Bauer (Stoke City).
Attempt saved. Peter Crouch (Stoke City) header from the centre of the box is saved in the bottom left corner. Assisted by Xherdan Shaqiri with a headed pass.
Attempt saved. Xherdan Shaqiri (Stoke City) left footed shot from the centre of the box is saved in the top centre of the goal.
Substitution, Stoke City. Peter Crouch replaces Charlie Adam.
Erik Pieters (Stoke City) is shown the yellow card for a bad foul.
Gerard Deulofeu (Watford) wins a free kick in the defensive half.