A late Ross Barkley winner ends Chelsea’s season in winning fashion as they edge past Watford on the final day of a long campaign.
Written by Ryan Bellenie (@BellenieSport).
Sunday May 22nd 2022 was a pivotal day in the Premier League season.
The title, top four, and relegation were all yet to be decided heading into the 10 fixtures kicking off at 4pm, which only added to the drama for what looked to be another epic match week 38 in England’s top division. For Chelsea, it was game number 63 of a long, hard-fought campaign that has been riddled with injuries and drama since August’s opening whistle.
Their task yesterday afternoon however wasn’t underlined with layers of importance. The match itself was almost meaningless for both sides, who had nothing but pride to play for on a sunny day in SW6.
Being well aware of his team’s struggles on home soil, Thomas Tuchel entered the game hoping to end the season positively with a strong victory at Stamford Bridge. With their departures imminent, it looked to be the final time we’d seen both Antonio Rüdiger and Andreas Christensen in blue at the Bridge – although the latter failed to make the matchday squad.
Two other players heavily linked with a move away from Chelsea are Marcos Alonso and César Azpilicueta, with the Blues skipper leading the team for potentially the last ever time. The Spaniard was one of five changes in Thomas Tuchel’s starting eleven which also saw fringe players in Saúl and Kenedy start.
In the opening five minutes of the game, the hosts had a great chance to open the scoring through Kai Havertz. The striker was found by Mason Mount who hit a great ball over the Watford backline. Although the German then got his shot off, he was denied by a strong save from Daniel Bachmann.
Six minutes later, the Blues converted the opener with Havertz’ name on the scoresheet. It was an easy tap-in for the attacker, who had the ball on a plate following a wicked delivery from Kenedy on the left-hand side.
The visitors didn’t have an attempt on target until the 31st minute, with Édouard Mendy equal to Kiko Femenía’s effort at his near post. Chelsea themselves then nearly found a second on the cusp of half-time with Havertz lofting the ball on to the crossbar.
Instead, it was just a one goal lead that Tuchel’s side took into half-time.
The Hornets began the second half brightly with Joāo Pedro knocking on the door of an equaliser. The 20-year-old did brilliantly to worm his way into a dangerous position before bringing an alert Mendy back into action.
Pressure then continued on the Chelsea backline, with an error from César Azpilicueta forcing Thiago Silva into a goal line clearance. The Blues responded with both Hakim Ziyech and substitute Ross Barkley testing Bachmann at the other end.
As the game then rolled on into its final few moments, the hosts fragile lead proved to be exactly that as Watford struck level on the 87th minute. Dan Gosling was able to get on the end of a sweet delivery from Adam Masina, which swerved round the Chelsea backline to find midfielder at the back post.
It looked to be yet another disappointing home draw for Thomas Tuchel’s side, with his team pushing for a late winner in stoppage time. On the 91st minute, Reece James found Ross Barkley inside the penalty area with his header being too hot for Bachmann to handle.
As the ball crossed the line, the Blues celebrated three points in their final game – capping off a long season with victory.
After the Whistle:
Although the game didn’t have much at stake for either side, Thomas Tuchel would be relived to leave the ground yesterday with three points after facing a sticky patch on home turf.
The victory was also a great way to finalise the season as fans saw a positive finish to what has been a difficult campaign for a variety of reasons. With new owners Todd Boehly and Hansjörg Wyss in attendance, it marked the beginning of a new chapter at the club that they will look forward to officially launching next season.
As mentioned, the summer will be a rebuilding for phase for the club who are also set to lose at least Antonio Rüdiger and Andreas Christensen for free in the summer window. A list of other players also look set to join the defensive pair, which only emphasises the importance of recruitment over the next few months.
Whilst baring that in mind, the players and staff at Chelsea will now look forward to a well-deserved break before preparing for pre-season in July. The Blues will travel to the United States where they will face Club América, Charlotte FC and Arsenal in a trio of games from July 16th – 23rd.
Watford on the other hand will not return to the Premier League next season, after being relegated alongside Norwich and Burnley to the Championship.
Chelsea 2-1 Watford.
- Havertz (11’).
- Gosling (87’).
- Barkley (90+1’).
BBC Sports Player of the Match:
Mason Mount (Chelsea).
Chelsea (3-4-2-1): Mendy; Azpilicueta ©, Silva, Rüdiger (65’); James, Kanté, Saúl, Kenedy (59’); Ziyech, Mount (89’); Havertz.
- Subs: Sarr (59’), Barkley (65’), Chilwell (89’).
Watford (4-3-3): Bachmann; Femenía, Kabasele, Samir, Kamara (78’); Sissoko ©, Kayembe (82’), Cleverley; King (72’), Pedro, Sema.
- Subs: Hernández (72’), Masina (78’), Gosling (82’).
Chelsea (72%) vs Watford (28%).
Chelsea (19) vs Watford (8).
Shots on Target:
Chelsea (8) vs Watford (3).
Chelsea (3) vs Watford (3).
Chelsea (9) vs Watford (9).
- (credit | BBC Sport).
- (credit | Sky Sports Football).