16th of May 2017

Champions back home with 4-3 win over Watford

The champions returned home for the first time since clinching the Premier League title and came out on top in a seven-goal thriller against Watford thanks to a late Cesc Fabregas winner.

The Blues had led 2-1 at the break thanks to goals from John Terry and Cesar Azpilicueta, and we appeared on course for a comfortable evening when Michy Batshuayi, the hero at the Hawthorns on Friday, added a third early in the second half.

The visitors, however, had other ideas and goals from Daryl Janmaat and substitute Stefano Okaka looked as though they had earned Watford a point.

The decisive goal eventually arrived with two minutes left on the clock when Willian, impressive throughout, teed up Fabregas to fire home from just outside the penalty area.

With little time to recover since Friday’s game at the Hawthorns it was no surprise Antonio Conte made a number of changes to the starting line-up.

Terry captained the side and there were also starts for Kurt Zouma, Nathan Ake, Nathaniel Chalobah and the goalscorer at West Brom, Batshuayi, who was given a wonderful reception by the home supporters. Asmir Begovic was given the nod in goal while Kenedy was involved in the Premier League for the first time this season. N’Golo Kante, meanwhile, made his return from injury having not featured in our last two matches.

The fixture was our annual Game for Equality, which celebrates the club’s diversity and inclusion work, and the players carried out their pre-match warm-up wearing t-shirts to mark the occasion.

As is tradition, the champions were welcomed onto the pitch by a guard of honour formed by Walter Mazzarri’s side, who were searching for their first win in exactly a month.

The Blues started brightly and threatened inside the opening two minutes after Eden Hazard and Azpilicueta, playing in a right wing-back role, combined to release Willian. The Brazilian got away from Jose Holebas with an electric burst of pace and although his cross picked out Batshuayi, the striker’s shot, and the subsequent effort by Hazard, were both blocked.

Chalobah was making his first Premier League start for the Blues and the midfielder began the game in confident fashion, retrieving possession on a couple of occasions and quickly looking to play a forward pass.

Terry was operating as the central figure in the back three, with Zouma to his right and Ake on the left, but as the 15-minute mark ticked by the trio had barely been called into action from a defensive point of view.

Batshuayi saw a strike deflected wide after 20 minutes following persistent play by Chalobah and Ake, and it was from the resulting corner that we took the lead.

Willian supplied the delivery, Zouma headed towards goal and as the loose ball bounced around in the box, Terry reacted quickest to hook it home with his left foot.

It was a strike which sparked jubilant scenes and understandably so given the skipper’s impending departure, but the celebrations were short-lived as Watford restored parity almost immediately.

As the cross came in from the left-hand side Ake headed clear but Terry, unaware of Etienne Capoue’s presence, flicked the ball back into the area where the Watford midfielder looped his header beyond Begovic. It was the first time Watford had scored away from home since the end of January.

Willian and Hazard were causing Watford problems every time we attacked and the pair almost combined to restore our lead just after the half-hour mark. Willian picked out the run of his team-mate with a delightful ball over the top but after effortlessly bringing it down and darting inside, the Belgian fizzed his strike inches wide.

Hazard then released Kenedy, who was playing at left wing-back, with a smart flick, but his cross was pushed behind at the near post by Heurelho Gomes. The delivery was only headed to the edge of the penalty area by Janmaat and Azpilicueta took one touch to bring the ball under control before firing low and hard into the bottom corner.

We were back in front 10 minutes before the break courtesy of the Spaniard’s first Premier League goal of the season.

There was an opportunity to extend our lead moments later but after Hazard’s cross was played behind Kenedy, who had shown fantastic desire to get forward, the Brazilian’s shot was deflected behind.

The second half was only three minutes old when the Blues did score a third and it should probably have arrived even sooner when Willian, after being slipped through by Hazard, saw his curler well saved by Gomes.

Willian played the corner short to Hazard who picked out Kenedy just outside the penalty area. His left-footed drive deflected up and into the path of Ake, who rolled it across goal to give Batshuayi a simple tap-in from close range. It was the striker’s second goal in as many games and his seventh of the season.

Just like in the first half, however, Watford once again hit back with their next attack. Unlike their first goal, though, the second owed much to the skill and determination of Janmaat, who picked the ball up wide on the left and drove towards goal. The space opened up and as the Dutchman advanced into the box he stepped inside Ake and curled his strike into the far corner.

With the title safely secure, there was a carnival atmosphere inside the Bridge throughout the second half with the home fans in full voice as they paid tribute to Conte and his players. The men in blue almost responded with a goal of the highest quality as Hazard, Azpilicueta and Kante were involved in a superb passing move which culminated in Gomes saving from Batshuayi, who managed to get a shot away on the turn and under pressure.

Batshuayi passed up another chance soon after when he should probably have slipped in Willian, who had made up ground to his right, and Ake then drilled a long-range effort just wide.

Azpilicueta should have doubled his own tally for the night after Willian had capitalised on a defensive error by Holebas and laid the ball into his path. The defender couldn’t have hit the ball much sweeter but he was thwarted by a superb Gomes save low down to his right.

With 17 minutes remaining we were made to pay for those missed opportunities when Okaka, who had only just come on as a substitute, equalised with his first touch.

Tom Cleverley sent a cross into the Chelsea box and while Zouma got a head to it, the loose ball fell invitingly for Okaka who smashed his effort beyond Begovic to make it 3-3.

The visitors had their tails up having fought back from 3-1 down and they almost turned the game on its head when Valon Behrami crashed a powerful drive from distance just past the post.

Conte made a couple of changes, with Ola Aina coming on for Kenedy and Fabregas replacing Chalobah, as the Blues went in search of a winner. Pedro was then introduced for the final seven minutes at the expense of Batshuayi.

Fabregas forced Gomes into a smart stop after latching on to a Willian pass and with three minutes left on the clock the duo combined once more, but this time with a more positive outcome as the Spaniard's shot rolled into the bottom corner.

There was still time for further drama as Watford defender Sebastian Prodl was shown a second yellow card for a cynical foul on Pedro, ensuring the visitors finished the game with 10 men.

As the full-time whistle sounded fireworks were launched into the air to celebrate our title triumph, and it was fitting a night of celebrations ended with a victory in front of our own supporters.

Another win in our final game of the season, at home to Sunderland on Sunday, will ensure we finish with the second-highest points total in Premier League history. That is the day when the trophy will be presented, and the party can really begin.

 


- Match stats:

Chelsea (3-4-3): Begovic; Zouma, Terry (c), Ake, Azpilicueta, Kante, Chalobah ( Fabregas 77), Kenedy (Aina 74), Willian, Batshuayi (Pedro 83), Hazard.
Unused subs: Eduardo, Alonso, Cahill, Diego Costa.
Scorers Terry 21, Azpilicueta 35, Batshuayi 48, Fabregas 88
Booked Ake 29, Chalobah 57

Watford (3-4-2-1): Gomes (c); Mariappa, Prodl, Holebas; Amrabat, Behrami, Doucoure, Janmaat; Cleverley, Capoue (Deeney 90); Niang (Okaka 70).
Unused subs: Pantilimon, Mason, Eleftheriou, Zuniga, D Pereira
Scorers Capoue 23, Janmaat 50, Okaka 73
Booked Holebas 3, Amrabat 10, Prodl 82, Deeney 90+4
Sent off Prodl 90+1

Referee Lee Mason
Crowd 41,473


- Match report by chelseafc.com

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