Watford’s disappointing start to the season has continued after they suffered back-to-back defeats with a 1-0 loss at Everton.

Javi Gracia’s side were improved on their poor showing in last weekend’s season opener against Brighton & Hove Albion, but were not good enough to find a way past the Toffees’ stubborn rearguard after falling behind early on.

The Hornets were playing catch-up from the 10th minute when Bernard latched onto a long pass from Lucas Digne and cut inside to beat Ben Foster with a deflected shot at his near post.

Javi Gracia’s side grew into the contest and went close to equalising when Craig Dawson headed against the crossbar from a corner, but they continued to play a dangerous game at times at the other end and were fortunate not to be punished by a free header from Richarlison.

Everton brought a strong defensive record into the game, but they were unpicked after the restart when Gerard Deulofeu put Troy Deeney in behind but he was unable to beat Jordan Pickford.

Danny Welbeck was introduced off the bench for his debut as the visitors continued to push, but their approach play was to lack the quality to find a way to get back on terms.

The team news was straight forward with one change apiece for both sides.

Roberto Pereyra returned on the Hornets left, with Deulofeu replacing Andre Gray up front in the only alteration to the starting XI that performed so disappointingly against Brighton & Hove Albion on the opening weekend of the season.

Gray dropped to a bench that also included summer arrival Danny Welbeck and Domingos Quina following his shoulder injury but, as expected, record signing Ismaila Sarr was not ready to be included in the match-day 18 yet.

Marco Silva was always going to have to make one change to the side that drew 0-0 at Crystal Palace last weekend with Morgan Schneiderlin suspended. His place went to summer signing Jean-Philippe Gbamin, with Andre Gomes passed fit to start alongside him in midfield despite being a pre-match doubt.

The Hornets were the first to threaten when former Toffees loanee Deulofeu intercepted a Digne pass on the left and went on a promising run, taking him past three opposition players but after reaching the edge of the box he was unable to slide Deeney in.

Jose Holebas took a painful early blow as he blocked a Richarlison delivery behind for a corner. That was dealt with, not completely convincingly, but the hosts kept the pressure on with Digne having the first attempt of the contest, fizzing a low drive from 20 yards wide of Ben Foster’s near post.

Everton were able to continue to apply early pressure from corners before a foul on Gylfi Sigurddson gave Digne the opportunity to take aim from 20 yards. His left-footed strike spun off the top of the wall and Foster chose to try and come through the crowd to claim the ball, but was beaten by the bounce and was a little fortunate it spun back towards his goal allowing him to grab it at the second attempt.

Digne had been busy from the outset though, and it was from his raking pass that the home side capitalised in the 10th minute.

The full-back’s ball from inside his own half stretched the Hornets defence and Bernard latched onto the ball, cutting inside before hitting a right-footed shot that was deflected inside Foster’s near post by Dawson to make it 1-0.

Seamus Coleman picked up the game’s first booking for a foul on Pereyra and Watford gradually began to get more of a foothold in the contest, almost equalising in the 24th minute.

After Holebas’ delivery from his side’s first corner of the match had been blocked behind at the near post, the veteran full-back opted to aim for the back post with the next ball and Dawson stole in round the back to thunder a header off the bar with Pickford beaten.

The Hornets had another opportunity soon after when Holebas crossed from the left and Abdoulaye Doucoure met it with a header, but mis-timed his effort and sent it harmlessly into the ground.

Etienne Capoue was the recipient of Watford’s first booking of the season for clumsily barding over Richarlison, but there were continued signs the Hornets might have some joy in the opposition’s final third.

That mounted in the 38th minute when Deulofeu went down in the area following a challenge by Yerry Mina. Referee Lee Mason decided it was a corner, the Everton centre-half suggested Deulofeu had dived and VAR ruled that no clear and obvious error had been made after viewing the incident again.

That corner came to nothing but the visitors stayed on the front foot, with Capoue testing Pickford with a curling effort from the edge of the area.

Everton hadn’t threatened for a spell but four minutes before the break they were given another set-piece opportunity when Capoue committed a foul. This time Sigurdsson opted for a cross which picked out Richarlison totally unmarked in the middle of the area, but he headed over the target.

It was the visitors who finished the half the stronger and a promising move down the right involving Kiko Femenia, Doucoure and Will Hughes should have ended with a goal attempt, but Doucoure and Deeney got in each other’s way.

The referee was quick to get his cards out after the resumption, with Andre Gomes the third player to see yellow following a foul on Capoue.

It was Watford who made the better start, winning three corners in quick succession, as they continued to seek an equaliser. No chances were forthcoming until the 56th minute when Capoue intercepted a pass, burst downfield and found Deulofeu and he slipped in Deeney, but his first-time effort was kept out by the face of Pickford.

Holebas received his first caution of the season for hauling down Richarlison and it was the former Hornets forward who got on the end of the resultant free-kick from the right, flicking a header not too far over the top.

The card count continued to rise as Pereyra received a yellow after Mason adjudged he’d dived trying to win a free-kick before Silva made the first change, bringing on Theo Walcott for Richarlison.

It was the visitors who continued to press though, with Pereyra nodding over the top following a game of head tennis in the Toffees box, before a lapse from Pickford almost let in Deulofeu.

Welbeck came on for his Hornets debut in place of Hughes in the 67th minute to make his first appearance since November 8 following his lengthy injury lay-off.

Silva followed suit with a change up front, as new signing Moise Kean replaced Dominic Calvert-Lewin, while the injured Digne made way for Mason Holgate.

Tom Cleverley came on for Deulofeu with 12 minutes to go as the visitors continued to plug away, but without threatening as much as earlier in the half.

Watford managed to deal with a dangerous run from Bernard, who was shaping to shoot after cutting into the area from the left, before Gracia played his final hand by bringing on Gray for Capoue with seven minutes of normal time remaining.

There was always the risk that the Hornets would be picked off as their search for an equaliser became increasingly desperate and that almost happened when Bernard sent the pacey Kean away on the counter, but after coming inside he screwed his shot high and wide.

Five minutes of additional time afforded the Hornets hope of snatching something from the game, but it had long since been with hope rather than conviction as Everton claimed the points with relative comfort in the latter period of the game.

Everton: Pickford; Digne (Holgate 71), Keane, Mina, Coleman; Gbamin, Andre Gomes; Richarlison (Walcott 64), Sigurdsson, Bernard; Calvert-Lewin (Kean 71). Subs not used: Lossl, Tosun, Iwobi, Davies.

Watford: Foster; Femenia, Dawson, Cathcart, Holebas; Hughes (Welbeck 67), Doucoure, Capoue (Gray 83), Pereyra; Deulofeu (Cleverley 78), Deeney. Subs not used: Gomes, Janmaat, Quina, Kabasele.

Bookings: Coleman for a foul on Pereyra (14); Capoue for a foul on Richarlison (31); Andre Gomes for a foul on Capoue (47); Holebas for a foul on Richarlison (59); Pereyra for simulation (62).

Attendance: 39,066.

Referee: Lee Mason.