Watford put Stoke to sword in Slaven Bilic’s first game as Hornets manager


Slaven Bilic enjoyed a memorable start to life as Watford boss with a fine 4-0 victory at Stoke.

Former West Ham boss Bilic became the Hornets’ ninth manager in three years after Rob Edwards was sacked on Monday following a torrid run of just one win in seven Championship games.

Goals from Ismaila Sarr, Ken Sema, Keinan Davis and Vakoun Issouf Bayo secured Bilic an impressive win at the bet365 Stadium with the club’s biggest victory since hammering Bristol City 6-0 in February 2021.

Bilic will be equally delighted with the fact his side kept their first clean sheet in 11 games and a first away win since March.

And it could have been even more convincing had the visitors not struck the post twice in 90 first-half seconds.

Bilic’s opposite number Alex Neil has suffered a shaky start since jumping ship from Sunderland to Stoke at the end of August.

This mauling means the former Preston boss has won just one of his first five games in charge of the Potters.

Bilic, who switched Watford’s formation to a new 4-5-1, made four changes for his first game at the helm, whilst Neil handed deadline-day Chelsea loan signing Dujon Sterling his first Stoke start.

Hassane Kamara was a real bright spark down the left-hand side for the visitors.

And the Ivory Coast defender found acres of space to deliver a teasing cross as Sarr, who may have marginally been offside, expertly ran through the heart of the hosts’ defence to glance a header home in the 11th minute.

It was almost a carbon copy 13 minutes later as another pin-point Kamara cross found Sarr, who this time headed against the post.

And within the blink of an eye Watford rattled the woodwork again as Stoke stopper Josef Bursik tipped Sema’s strike onto his near post.

Liam Delap squandered a rare opportunity in the Watford box as he dragged his effort in first-half stoppage time wide of the mark.

Neil’s men came out all guns blazing in the second half, but Sema doubled the advantage after 64 minutes to settle things down.

The Hornets took advantage of disarray at the back as Stoke tried to clear, with Sema eventually bundling the ball over the line.

And Watford eased to victory as Davis and Bayo added the finishing touches.

Josh Laurent was caught in possession as the Hornets countered with Davis calmly firing home the third with 12 minutes to go.

Substitute Bayo hit the fourth six minutes later as he easily tapped home his third goal of the season.

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