Chelsea made sure they would be playing Champions League football once again next season as they moved into the top four with a 3-0 win over Watford at Stamford Bridge.
The goals came from Ruben Loftus-Cheek, David Luiz and Gonzalo Higuain following a nervy start where Kepa made an unbelievable save to deny Troy Deeney. In the end, it was comfortable for the Blues but it could have been a very different story in their final home Premier League match of the season.
With Manchester United and Arsenal now unable to catch Maurizio Sarri’s men who sit 3rd, the return of those famous Champions League nights has been confirmed.
Eden Hazard’s place in the starting XI was restored after he was rested for the trip to Eintracht Frankfurt in the Europa League on Thursday night but it was at the other end of the pitch where Chelsea had to be alert in the opening stages. Following a Gerard Deulofeo strike that flew inches wide inside six minutes, Deeney forced one of the saves of the season out of Kepa who managed to claw his header out from the top corner of the net.
The hosts then gained a foothold in the contest and almost went in front themselves but Jorginho’s inventive chip was kept out by Ben Foster. The chances continued to come and go for Watford though as Deulofeo and then Jose Holebas both failed to keep their efforts on target.
As they so often are, the Blues were eventually in control as the game reached its halfway point but Pedro was unable to keep either of his shots between the posts as the referee blew his half-time whistle.
That failure to break the deadlock before the break was soon rectified as Loftus-Cheek opened the scoring within just three minutes of the restart. After seeing his shot tipped behind for a corner, Hazard lofted a perfect cross towards the back post where the young England midfielder towered above his marker and headed brilliantly into the back of the net.
Before the Hornets knew where they were, they were two goals down and the second came from another corner. This time it was Luiz who met the delivery with a bullet header which left Foster without a chance in the world of saving it just two minutes after he had been forced to pick the ball out of his goal.
The Watford goalkeeper had to be at his best twice to keep the scoreline at just two with brilliant saves to keep out Pedro and then Higuain who may have been playing in his last match at the Bridge. Although, the Argentine frontman ensured he would potentially sign off in style with his fifth Premier League goal since signing on loan.
Pedro managed to pick out his instinctive run in behind the visiting defence leaving him with the task of dinking the ball over the onrushing keeper, something Higuain has been doing with ease for a number of years now.
With a quarter of an hour left, there was still time for the away side to waste a glorious opportunity as Holebas, who had rather forcefully shoved Mateo Kovacic off the ball, sent an effort from inside the box crashing onto the bar when he really should have at least tested Kepa.
With the Blues cruising to the all-important three points, their fans were given more to cheer about as Watford saw a goal disallowed following some confusion on the goal-line where Isaac Success and Deeney both touched the ball forcing the linesman to raise his flag.
As Arsenal failed to beat Brighton in the later match, it meant Chelsea secured their top-four place confirming their return to Europe’s elite competition for next season.