Chelsea survived a real scare at the hands of Watford this weekend to secure their first league win in three games in a topsy-turvy encounter. Antonio Conte will be hoping his charges can take confidence from their spirited fightback and use the result as a catalyst in the hunt to catch Manchester City.
Early Premier League clashes are notoriously slow-starting and the opening stages were cagey before Pedro brought the game to life in the 12th minute. Eden Hazard pulled the ball back to the Spaniard following a neatly worked corner and the former Barcelona man took the shot on first time, fizzing the ball across the stranded Heurelho Gomes into the top corner to give the Blues the lead.
Blues fall behind after early lead
Rather than give the Blues confidence, the goal seemed to hamper their attacking threats, which in turn encouraged a Watford side that had only been beaten once all season. On the stroke of half-time, the Hornets were handed a lifeline back into the match. Chelsea failed to deal with a long throw and Abdoulaye Doucouré pounced on the half volley to restore parity. It was the Frenchman’s fourth goal of an already promising season as his stock in the Premier League continues to rise.
Antonio Conte’s words at half-time didn’t seem to have much effect, as Watford came out of the traps quickest in the second half; and in the 49th minute, they were in front. Troy Deeney and the lively Richarlison combined to feed Roberto Pereyra, who finished with aplomb to send the travelling faithful barmy. It was a mad ten minutes for the Blues, as Richarlison missed a further two gilt-edge chances to put the game to bed – opportunities that he would live to rue as the match progressed.
With his side 2-1 down, Conte appeared to be feeling the strain a little and decided to go for the jugular, bringing off the ineffective Alvaro Morata and Marcos Alonso to be replaced by Willian and Michy Batshuayi – and it took all of ten minutes for the Belgian to have an impact. The excellent Pedro found space on the right and curled in an inviting cross that Batshuayi met with conviction in the box to nod the ball into the far corner of the net and lift the mood around Stamford Bridge.
Hornets rue attack-minded changes
At 2-2, Watford boss Marco Silva removed Troy Deeney for Ben Watson, a defensive change that signalled their intentions, which ultimately could have cost them the game. The Hornets sat back and the pressure told in the 87th minute as Cesar Azpilicueta found himself unmarked eight yards out to nod home from an excellent Willian cross. Antonio Conte’s celebrations brought back memories of last season as he jumped into the crowd and the relief was palpable.
The third goal seemed to knock the stuffing out of Watford, who were guilty of overplaying in injury time as Britos’s clearance was cut out by Bakayoko, who fed Batshuayi; he, in turn, showed good composure to finish and give the game a slightly flattering gloss on the scoreline.
The win pushed Chelsea above Watford in the table and moved Antonio Conte’s men onto 17 points from their nine games played. Chelsea are in EFL Cup action on Wednesday when they host Everton at Stamford Bridge in the fourth round and they return to Premier League action on Saturday evening when they travel to Bournemouth, whilst Watford’s next game is at home to Stoke in the league on Saturday.