Deeney misses penalty as Watford stifle Spurs in goalless draw

Soccer Football - Premier League - Watford v Tottenham Hotspur - Vicarage Road, Watford, Britain - January 18, 2020 Watford's Troy Deeney takes a penalty which is saved by Tottenham Hotspur's Paulo Gazzaniga REUTERS/David Klein

WATFORD, England (Reuters) – Watford stretched their unbeaten run in the Premier League to six matches but missed out on a fourth successive victory when Troy Deeney’s second-half penalty was saved in a 0-0 home draw with Tottenham Hotspur on Saturday.

Skipper Deeney stepped up to take the spot kick in the 69th minute after Spurs defender Jan Vertonghen clearly handled Gerard Deulofeu’s shot, but his effort was saved by Spurs keeper Paulo Gazzaniga.

Tottenham nearly snatched a last-gasp victory when Erik Lamela’s scuffed shot was only just cleared off the line by Watford’s new signing Ignacio Pussetto, but they had to settle for their first goalless draw in 94 Premier League games.

Jose Mourinho’s Tottenham are winless in four league games as their challenge for a top four finish stalls. But Spurs will welcome their first away clean sheet in the league since New Year’s Day 2019.

“I think we played well, we started well and we finished well,” Mourinho told reporters. “It’s not easy to come here with a team that is technical, not physical.

“By one centimetre at the end we didn’t win.”

While Watford will rue Deeney’s miss, their trajectory continues upwards under Nigel Pearson. They have taken 14 points from his seven games in charge and now have 23 points from 23 games, moving into 16th place before the 1500 GMT games.

They have kept four clean sheets in their last six games.

“Our players put in an incredibly honest performance again,” Pearson said. “We struggled to get a foothold in the opening 15 minutes but I think the players take incredible credit from the way they went about trying to win the game.

“It was another hard-fought point and a clean sheet.”

Glorious winter sunshine greeted the teams at Vicarage Road where fans celebrated the life of Watford’s greatest ever manager Graham Taylor in a colourful pre-match tribute.

The game itself was flat, however, although VAR was again a talking point when referee Michael Oliver was unable to check a possible red card decision on Watford’s Etienne Capoue because his communication equipment appeared to malfunction, causing a delay to play and howls of derision from the crowd.

Tottenham, with Argentine duo Giovani Lo Celso and Lamela keeping their places in midfield, were sharp in the early stages but struggled to open up a Watford team demonstrating the resolve Pearson has instilled.

Watford gradually grew into the game though, with Deulofeu and Ismaila Sarr worrying Tottenham down the flanks.

Tottenham’s young defender Japhet Tanganga, given a third start in a week by Mourinho, was yellow-carded after hauling down the lively Sarr. Former Tottenham player Capoue was also booked for a wild tackle on Lo Celso.

The visitors had the best chance in the first half when Dele Alli’s slide-rule pass released Lucas Moura, but keeper Ben Foster was alert to the danger and smothered the Brazilian’s shot. Son Heung-min also lashed a volley over the bar.

Watford were far more forceful after the break and should have gone ahead when Abdoulaye Doucoure got free at the near post but could not wrap his foot around a low cross.

An intense spell of Watford pressure eventually ended with Vertonghen inadvertently handling Deulofeu’s shot. “I thought it was a harsh decision,” a generous Pearson said.

While Watford’s new signing Pussetto came off the bench to make a point-saving intervention in a stoppage time scramble, Tottenham also handed a debut to Portuguese winger Gedson Fernandes as a second-half substitute.