Eden Hazard was the star of the show once again as he led Chelsea to a 2-1 Boxing Day win over Watford at Vicarage Road.
Roberto Pereyra equalised with a fantastic volley following Hazard’s opening goal but the Belgian wizard went on to win it from the penalty spot after being taken out in the box by Ben Foster.
Maurizio Sarri chose not to change his team from the one that was beaten 1-0 by Leicester at the weekend while Javi Gracia did the same thing after his side had defeated an in-form West Ham side. One of the players who many thought would have been dropped, Pedro, had the first chance of the game but his bending left-footed effort flew just wide of the target.
The Spaniard then almost turned provider as Willian raced past his marker and onto his through ball. But after taking the ball round Foster, the former Shakhtar winger could only strike the outside of the post. Christian Kabasele had to be stretchered off afterwards as he crashed into the upright in an attempt to block the potentially goalbound shot.
Watford slowly grew into the match and had chances of their own to go in front as the visitors struggled to find the killer pass. Ken Sema sent a strike over the bar for the Hornets before Hazard failed to sort his feet out six yards from the goal line. But with his next chance, he redeemed himself.
Mateo Kovacic stole the ball 40 yards from goal and freed the 27-year-old who sat Foster down and fired Chelsea in front, scoring his 100th goal for the club in the process. However, the Blues were pegged back within three minutes as another injury time goal brought the sides level.
Jose Holebas hung a cross towards the edge of the box where Pereyra was waiting to aim a perfect volley past Kepa and into the bottom corner. The equaliser gave the home side a boost and they came out stronger in the second period but after having a soft penalty appeal turned away, they were a goal down once again.
Jorginho clipped an exquisite pass over the top of the Watford backline and as Hazard clicked into gear, Foster wiped him out inside the box. The Blues’ leading scorer stepped up and put his side back in front with his 12th goal of the season.
Hazard came close to assisting his 10th league goal of the campaign as he set Willian free in the box but after taking a clever first touch, the Brazilian’s left-footed drive clipped the post on its way behind. Just minutes later, N’Golo Kante was the man who nearly put the game to bed as he started, and almost finished, a flowing counter-attack where he dragged a shot wide following a lovely defence-splitting pass from his brilliant Belgian team-mate.
Sarri’s men should have been made to rue that miss as Troy Deeney poked Pereyra’s low cross over the crossbar from a matter of yards with a few minutes left on the clock. That was the closest the hosts came to a late equaliser as Chelsea held on for a vital three points in their bid for a top four place.