Chelsea managed to overcome a hapless defensive display to record a victory against their London rivals Watford, with the substitutions proving to be a masterstroke from Antonio Conte.
Watford meanwhile will be ruing missed opportunities, as they proved dominant through large parts of the game, whilst the Blues defence seemed non-existent.
It was Chelsea who took the lead in the 12th minute of this end-to-end fixture, and what a goal it was from Pedro. The diminutive Spaniard curled a strike delightfully into the top left postage stamp from over 20 yards, hitting it first time on the turn following an assist from Hazard.
There then came a glorious chance for the home side to extend their lead, as Morata fed the ball through to Fabregas on the 16th minute, leaving him just with Gomes to beat. The midfielder tried the audacious chip, however Gomes was not fooled, as he stayed upright and handled the ball out of harms way. With this being a great chance to extend their lead, Fabregas will be left ruing his overly elaborate play.Embed from Getty Images
It took until the 31st minute for Watford’s first shot on target through a Cleverley free kick, curled over the wall and Palmed away by Courtois from the left of the goal. The limited Watford chances in the opening third of the game however was by no means a sign of things to come – as proven before the half time interval.
Right on the brink of halftime, Doucoure managed to find an impressive equaliser by somehow finding space through a crowded penalty area. Holebas launched the throw-in into danger, and Luiz could only frantically clear it onto Bakayoko’s head. The ball fell kindly Doucoure and the powerful midfielder managed to hit across the ball enough to guide it through a hectic formation of players, and into the goal to give Watford a 1-1 score line at the break.
Watford continued to show promise after the interval, and should have taken the lead in the 48th minute. Kiko Femenia pushed beyond Azpilicueta and put the ball on a plate for Richarlison, only for him to slice it wide. This was a far different story compared to the rest of his early Watford career.
Only a minute later though Richarlison was relieved, being allowed plenty of space in the 18 yard box to find an assist for Pereyra in the centre. Pereyra took one touch before nestling it into the bottom left – allowing Watford to take the lead.Embed from Getty Images
The Hornets continued to push on for more through the second half, trying to utilise their dominance in play. In the 54th minute as part of a continued Watford onslaught, Richarlison was back to his previous worst however as he failed to hit a header on target from close range, despite a complete lack of pressure from the Chelsea defence. It is safe to say that Chelsea were all over the place, with a distinct lack of control and defensive shape.
Heading into the final third of the game, it was evident Conte had seen enough of this shambolic performance and he needed to turn the game on its head. Few would have expected this change to come in the form of Batshuayi considering recent inadequate displays, however Conte offered the Belgian his chance in exchange for Morata.
Luckily for the Blues manager, he took that chance. On the 71st minute, Pedro whipped the ball in from the right and Batshuayi delivered a strong header from afar, gliding past Gomes to give Chelsea a lifeline in the game. This goal followed a brighter run of play for the Blues, as Willian’s introduction had also helped to instil more control and mitigate the Watford assault.
Chelsea left it late, but following some encouraging play between Zappacosta and Willian, both part of the impactful substitute contingent, they took the lead and made the game 3-2 in their favour. Azpilicueta was the man of the moment, heading in after a pacey cross from Willian.Embed from Getty Images
Following such a dismal display earlier in the game, Chelsea fans were jubilant – and Batshuayi provided more of a reason for the home side to celebrate with an injury time goal to make it 4-2. Bakayoko leapt impressively to intercept a Watford clearance, with his header falling to Chelsea’s striker. He wrestled with Kabasele and won, allowing him the chance to tamely strike the Blues to victory.
Watford fans will head back across London feeling hugely disappointed that they weren’t able to take a result from this game, as Chelsea really were not on their game. Conte will have to review the game intently because he will be determined to iron out the poor shape and chaotic defensive play. Nevertheless, his substitutions were inspired and it allowed Chelsea to knick the victory.
Written by Theo Atherton-Green.