29 December 2023

Watford hold on for a point after Vakoun Bayo sees red against Stoke

29 December 2023

Watford held out for a 1-1 draw at home to Stoke despite losing Vakoun Bayo early in the second half to a straight red card for lashing out at Luke McNally.

Jake Livermore’s first Watford goal was cancelled out by an equaliser from Ryan Mmaee before the break.

Bayo saw red in the 52nd minute but Stoke could not find a winner.

Watford head coach Valerian Ismael handed a first start to Giorgi Chakvetadze as one of six changes to the side that lost 4-1 at home to Bristol City on Boxing Day.

Stoke brought in Ben Pearson and Sead Haksabanovic to freshen up their side after the 3-1 win at Birmingham in Steven Schumacher’s second game as head coach.

Livermore launched an early long-range strike over the Stoke crossbar before defenders blocked replies from Stoke duo Wouter Burger and Andre Vidigal.

Matheus Martins saw a drive deflected wide as Watford came again – and the Hornets took the lead from Chakvetadze’s 15th-minute corner.

Ryan Porteous flicked a header across the box for the former England midfielder to bundle over the line. It was his first goal since netting for West Bromwich in an FA Cup game with Chesterfield in January.

Mmaee sent a Stoke chance wide before Yaser Asprilla thumped a drive straight at Potters goalkeeper Jack Bonham.

Mmaee fired Stoke level in the 34th minute after Haksabanovic’s run down the left saw the ball bounce off Ryan Porteous to the Morocco striker, who turned to evade Tom Dele-Bashiru before blasting beyond Hornets keeper Ben Hamer.

Junior Tchamadeu missed a great chance for Stoke to take the lead straight after but his shot was too high.

Ismael Kone was booked for a challenge that left McNally requiring treatment. Referee Scott Oldham then showed a yellow card to Ismael for complaining about Stoke challenges that went unpunished.

The half ended with Livermore booked for a late challenge on Haksabanovic – and boos for the referee from the home fans.

Chakvetadze began the second period with a 25-yarder that Bonham touched on to the bar – but Watford were down to 10 men in the 52nd minute when Bayo was shown a red card.

The striker tangled with McNally and, after both players had picked themselves up, appeared to lash out at the Stoke defender with an elbow in full view of the official as play continued.

Hamer came out to make a fine block to stop Bae Jun-ho, played in by Haksabanovic, from slotting Stoke into the lead in the 65th minute.

Watford were still dangerous though, with Bonham denying Asprilla before substitute Mileta Rajovic scooped an even better chance over.

Hamer denied Mmaee a second with a reflex stop, and then had to save low down from substitute Lewis Baker but that turned out to be the game’s last clear-cut chance.

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