Chelsea See Off Watford And The Doomsayers
Chelsea ran out winners 4-2 in a contest that they looked like losing for long periods. Those that were suggesting the players were unhappy with Antonio Conte and not performing for him were to be proved wrong.
Chelsea started the game well and having lost the last two games in the Premier League. Watford who were fourth in league at the start of play were never going to be a pushover. Chelsea took the lead in the game when Pedro, starting his first league game since the win over Stoke City, curled the ball over Heurelho Gomes into the top corner, off the post. It was a superb strike and questioned Conte`s decision not to start him in the previous games against Manchester City and Crystal Palace.
Cesc Fabregas had a chance shortly after to double the lead when a neat ball by Eden Hazard put him through on goal. Rather than shoot he attempted to clip the ball over Gomes, but didn`t get enough on the ball and the keeper saved the effort.
After that though, Chelsea had a tendency to sit back and allow Watford time on the ball. Already full of confidence, the Hornets needed no invitation. Defensively, Chelsea looked a mess for the vast majority of the half which Conte started in his favoured 4-3-4 formation.
It looked as though Chelsea would make it into the break holding a 1-0 lead, but it wasn`t to be. A long throw, right on the stroke of halftime, caused chaos in the Chelsea penalty area. The ball came out to Abdoulaye Doucoure who managed to guide the ball through a throng of players and past Thibaut Courtois.
Chelsea would have been disappointed with the display and the second half was looking like it could be difficult. Watford came out, very much on the front foot and had clear chances to take the lead. Richarlison, in particular, was guilty of missing two clear chances which Watford would live to regret later.
Despite those misses though, the visitors managed to take the lead when Richarlison played the ball across the penalty area to the unmarked Roberto Pereyra who fired over the diving Courtois. Chelsea were still looking unlikely to get anything from the game.
Antonio Conte`s first change of the afternoon was a significant one, Michy Batshuayi replacing the ineffective Alvaro Morata. Not long after Willian replaced Marcos Alonso and almost immediately Chelsea looked more cohesive.
Willian, who has picked up his fair share of criticism this season played a quick free-kick to Pedro, whose cross was brilliantly glanced in by super-sub Michy Batshuayi. To their credit Watford remained on the front foot, and were not looking to sit back, like so many other teams do. Eventually it was to be their undoing. The tide in the game was beginning to turn Chelsea`s way.
The introduction of Willian saw Pedro move back into midfield, the extra man in an area Chelsea were continually overpowered, proved crucial to Antonio Conte`s side. With three minutes of the game remaining, Chelsea left it late against the Hornets, as they did in both games last season. Underfire Willian once again the provider when his cross evaded Batshuayi and came across to Cesar Azpilicueta who managed to get the ball in the goal off his shoulder.
Antonio Conte was in the crowd and the relief echoed around the ground. Finally Chelsea were the answering the critics who believe they are lightweights this season. Those who think the players are not with the manager were to be sorely disappointed. These Chelsea players, although struggling in certain areas, are definitely with their manager.
Man of the match Michy Batshuayi wrapped up the victory when a defensive mix-up saw the ball fall in front of him and he managed to hustle the ball past Gomes. The Batman was very happy to scored and to have answered his critics on an afternoon that restored some of Chelsea`s pride. Those previous defeats can now be put behind them and they can look forward to their upcoming games with a boost in their confidence. Next up Everton in Carabao Cup on Wednesday.