Chelsea triumph Watford 4-3 in seven-goal thriller at Stamford Bridge
The Premier League winners returned to action just three days after clinching the title away at the Hawthorns, as they hosted Watford at the Bridge triumphing the visitors 4-3 as goals from John Terry, Cesar Azpilicueta, Michy Batshuayi and Cesc Fabregas were enough to see off strikes from Etienne Capoue, Daryl Janmaat and Stefano Okaka.
Antonio Conte, whose name was sang all around the stadium from minute one onward, made plenty of changes into the starting side as he fringe players such as Kenedy, Nathaniel Chalobah and Asmir Begovic all started the game. Nathan Ake and Kenedy, who both have a loan history at the visiting side, were put a lot of attention on.
And the game began very sharply! Fulfilled with adrenaline, the Blues came close a few times inside the first five minutes, with the best chance coming from Willian via first escaped Holebas with pace on the right before firing a cross towards Batshuayi, where a defender got into the way to deflect the ball backwards for Hazard to hit on a volley – but straight at another defender.
Watford keeper Heurelio Gomes claimed before the match that the side wouldn’t be coming all the way to the Bridge to lose, as they were coming here to “get something out of the match”. However, at first it seemed like they were only looking to collect yellow cards of the tie, as referee Lee Mason had to book both Holebas and Nordin Amrabat inside the first 10 minutes.
Possession-wise Chelsea were dominant, but Watford’s five-defender back-line was really tough to break through. Michy Batshuayi was played the ball well from the back but Prödl gave a little space to breathe for the Belgian and often cut the ball out of play.
However, the moment of breakthrough was eventually found, as Willian’s cross was swung in towards Kurt Zouma, who headed the ball straight at John Terry’s back, where the skipper half-volleyed the ball into the back of the net through the post! 1-0 for Chelsea, and the fans couldn’t be more happier with the goalscorer! Terry was fulfilled with emotions as he almost seemed like crying a bit as he celebrated his first goal of the season in front of the Blues fans. What a player!
But, despite the great impact on his probably second-last Chelsea appearance, Terry soon got involved in a goal at the other end. Watford drew the game even just two minutes after the Blues’ opener, as John Terry’s attempted header for Begovic fell straight for Etienne Capoue, who lobbed the ball over the keeper to make it 1-1. A howler from the veteran, as he gifted Capoue his second goal versus Chelsea this season.
25 minutes was in the clock after the equalizer, and Chelsea were pushing forward again to find a way to regain the lead before half-time. Hazard came close on the 31st minute, as Willian’s long ball forward was well collected by the Belgian, who rounded off Mariappa before firing a shot past Gomes, but unfortunately, past the outside of the post as well.
Chelsea struck themselves back into the lead from yet another corner. Hazard threw the cross towards the front-post, where Daryl Janmaat cleared the ball behind, but not clear. Cesar Azpilicueta arrived from the back with pace and fired a rocket of a shot to the bottom corner of the net to put the hosts back into the lead!
The West London side could have also made it three before the half-time as Kenedy’s effort was blocked for a corner from Hazard’s great run and pass from the right-hand side. Watford also came closer to an equalizer as they enjoyed a good spell of possession in the Chelsea half, but they failed to trouble Begovic. Half-time came to a close in a deserved 2-1 lead for the Blues.
The second half began with the exact same pattern. Chelsea threw bodies forward and the result was imminent. Hazard first played Willian through on the left, where the Brazilian was able to earn the hosts yet another corner.
That set-piece led to the Blues’ third, as the cross was first cleared, but then sent back by Kenedy, who found Ake inside the box with his failed shot. The Dutchman controlled the bouncing ball with style and moved a simple pass for Batshuayi next to him to finish his second goal with an easy tap-in to an empty net. 3-1 for the Blues after 49 minutes of play, and the Bridge was having a party.
Crazily enough though, Ake’s great performance led to a poor performance only a minute later – just like with Terry on the first half. Janmaat stole the ball well from Kante in a run, and kept going and going into the Chelsea area where he went past Ake way too easily to find himself the space to finish Watford’s second. Antonio Conte certainly wasn’t happy, but the young defender will learn from his mistake.
Despite still being in the lead, Chelsea turned on the pressure like they were losing, and caused all sorts of troubles for the Watford defence. The fans enjoyed a lovely bit of play from the Blues as Azpilicueta, Willian, Hazard and Kante all were part of the sweet tiki-taka build-up for Batshuayi, who had a great shot saved by Gomes on the 64th minute. Azpilicueta also came close to his second on the 70th minute-mark, but Gomes stretched himself to a brilliant save to deny the Spaniard.
Chelsea should’ve taken those chances of theirs though, as Watford hadn’t given up yet. The visitors were able to climb back even once again, as substitute Stefano Okaka equalized the game with his first touch of the game when 74 minutes were played. Tom Cleverley’s ball was not cleared by the Blues defence, and the Hornets striker was able to get on the end of it to slash a powerful finish into the back of the net making it three-all.
It was clear that the Blues wanted to go for a victory today and Conte took actions to his hands right away, as he brought on Ola Aina for Kenedy and Cesc Fabregas for Chalobah. Both youngsters had played a good game, and you can read more on the players’ performances on our Player Ratings piece here.
Also Pedro came on on the 82nd minute to replace Batshuayi, as Conte wanted to see how the front-three of Pedro, Hazard and Willian worked.
The subs worked out quite soon as well! Cesc Fabregas scored the winning goal on the 89th minute of the match with a lovely first-time finish from Willian’s sweet horizontal pass. His sixth of the season, and what a time to get it!
After the goal the fans witnessed a slightly heated ending to the game as Sebastian Prödl got his second booking of the game and was thus sent off, and Pedro caused some troubles too getting Okaka and Troy Deeney booked.
The seven-goal-game finally came to its close and the fireworks were launched to the skies as Chelsea had secured their 13th victory in their last 15 games.
The Premier League trophy will be lifted at the end of our final game of the season when we host Sunderland at the Bridge on Sunday afternoon. COME ON CHELSEA!