Blues avoid Hornets’ sting to pick up three important points in an edgy affair.
Written by Ryan Bellenie (@BellenieSport).
In the first of their back-to-back away fixtures, Chelsea made the short trip to Vicarage Road on Wednesday evening to take on Claudio Ranieri’s Watford.
The fixture marked the first meeting between the two sides since May 2019, where Chelsea beat the Hornets 3-0 at Stamford Bridge. The Blues have won four of their last five matches against Watford – which included a league double in the 2018/2019 campaign.
With four players sidelined for the game, Thomas Tuchel was forced into making six changes for the midweek fixture – which saw Andreas Christensen, César Azpilicueta, Saúl, Mason Mount, Christian Pulisic and Kai Havertz all return to the starting eleven.
Claudio Ranieri made just one change to the team that lost at Leicester on the weekend, with João Pedro replacing Cucho Hernández.
The hosts began the game in promising fashion, with João Pedro’s goalbound effort needing a crucial intervention from the in-form Trevoh Chalobah.
The early pressure then continued from Watford and Pedro in particular – who had Édouard Mendy at full-stretch in the opening five minutes of the game.
On the 12th minute, the game was brought to a pause with a fan in the crowd needing medical attention following a suspected cardiac arrest.
NOTE: Everyone at SW6 Central wishes Larry Brooks a speedy recovery.
The game then returned to action 15 minutes later.
On the 20th minute, Chelsea had their first notable chance of the game as Mason Mount struck a bouncing ball towards goal – only to be denied by the frame of the goal. 9 minutes later – against the run of play – the visitors had the lead through the 22-year-old.
Two minutes on from Mount’s opener, Kai Havertz had the ball in the back of the net leaving Watford shellshocked. However, the linesman’s flag was correctly raised to the delight of the home fans.
After going a goal behind, the pressure from Watford was reignited with early substitute Danny Rose bring Mendy back into action.
On the cusp of half-time, Emmanuel Dennis found the equaliser as he squeezed his effort through the Chelsea defenders and into the far corner.
In stoppage time, the Hornets should have found another as Moussa Sissoko failed to capitalise from a good position inside the penalty area.
The two teams went into the tunnel at half-time level pegging, with Chelsea perhaps lucky not to be trailing.
Thomas Tuchel made a single change at half-time with veteran defender Thiago Silva replacing loanee midfielder Saúl.
The opening 10 minutes of play proved to be gritty, with there being a series of fouls from both teams in the early stages of the second half.
On the 57th minute, Watford’s Tom Cleverley looked through on goal with a glorious chance to find a second. However, Mendy was instantly off his line and did brilliantly to shut down the opportunity.
There were later attempts from both Pedro and Havertz, but neither were able to put their side ahead.
On the 73rd minute, Chelsea found that all-important third goal as substitute Hakim Ziyech continued his excellent form with a superb first-time strike to beat Daniel Bachmann.
Although he’s brilliant with his feet, the Moroccan later had a chance to convert again with a header. However, Bachmann made the save to keep the Hornets in the game.
Despite their attempts, Ranieri’s side struggled to find another against the league leaders who left Vicarage Road with three valuable points.
After the whistle:
It was a game that perhaps reminded Chelsea fans of their game against Brentford earlier on in the season. On both occasions the Blues were under the cosh, yet still picked up maximum points against the newly promoted sides.
Credit must be given to Thomas Tuchel and his side. Watford entered the game with nothing to lose against a Chelsea team that is beginning to be riddled with injuries.
However, Tuchel rotated his side and weathered the storm to keep their place at the top of the league.
Looking to continue their unbeaten spell away from home in the Premier League, Chelsea will hope for a similar result on Saturday as they take on West Ham in East London.
Watford – on the other hand – face a tough task as they host Manchester City in Saturday’s evening kick-off.
Watford 1-2 Chelsea.
- Mount (30’).
- Dennis (44’).
- Ziyech (72’).
BBC Sports Player of the match:
Kai Havertz (Chelsea).
Watford (4-1-4-1): Bachmann; Femenía, Troost-Ekong, Cathcart, Masina (12’); Louza (73’); Dennis, Cleverley (85’), Sissoko ©, João Pedro; King.
- Subs: Rose (12’), Kucka (73’), Ngakia (85’).
Chelsea (3-4-2-1): Mendy; Chalobah (60’),, Christensen, Rüdiger; Azpilicueta © (69’), Loftus-Cheek, Saúl (45’), Alonso; Mount, Pulisic; Havertz.
- Subs: Silva (45’), Ziyech (60’), Lukaku (69’).
Watford (50%) vs Chelsea (50%).
Watford (14) vs Chelsea (8).
Shots on target:
Watford (6) vs Chelsea (4).
Watford (6) vs Chelsea (0).
Watford (18) vs Chelsea (16).
- (credit | BBC Sport).
- (credit | Chelsea Football Club).