Chelsea vs. Watford Review
Chelsea 4-3 Watford
After such a brilliant weekend and an amazing season, Chelsea FC winning their fifth English Premier League title at the Hawthorns, the big questions for the next game was always going to be about the lineup. For this home clash v Watford, Antonio Conte opted to rest almost all of his normal starting eleven, making nine changes to the team from the previous game. Asmir Begovic replaced Thibaut Courtois, with a new back three of John Terry, Nathan Ake and Kurt Zouma in front of him. Cesar Azpilicueta and Kenedy were the wing backs, and Eden Hazard, Willian and Michy Batshuayi were up top in attack. N’golo Kante returned to reprise his award-winning midfield role, with Nathaniel Chalobah starting alongside him.
Watford also made three changes to their previous starting lineup, with key players Stefano Okaka and Troy Deeney both starting on the bench for this game.
With that many changes it was a topsy-turvy game, Chelsea showing plenty of energy, fluidity and guile in attack, but none of their usual defensive solidity. Watford sensed an opportunity was there to be had, and they did their best to spoil the party atmosphere at Stamford Bridge.
Opener: Chelsea 1-0 Watford
A Chelsea corner high to the far post saw Kurt Zouma knock the ball down off Terry’s back, leading to a scramble in the box. And who came up with possession, hooking the ball in off the post-John Terry for the opener.
Equalizer: Chelsea 1-1 Watford
Within minutes of the resulting kick off, Ake outfights Niang to head a Watford cross up in the air. Terry, still high off his goal, loops a headed backpass to Begovic. Unfortunately it falls short to a lurking Etienne Capoue instead, who probably thinks, "thanks for the favour skipper" and heads it into the net. You could almost forgive JT though, what a difficult season it's been for him, and what a moment it must have been emotionally, his goal.
Chelsea retake the lead: Chelsea 2-1 Watford
Hazard played a good ball in around Watford defender Amrabat to Kenedy, whose cross was blocked out by the goalkeeper for a corner. From the resulting dead ball, a defensive header went straight to Azpilicueta on the edge of the box, who showed great technique to slice in a beautiful grass cutter into the opposite corner. Halftime score, home side up 2-1.
Extending the lead: Chelsea 3-1 Watford
Soon after the break, a short corner was collected and arrowed out to Kenedy in a central posiion just outsde the box. The left back struck a shot which was deflected wide to Ake, who had beaten the offsite trap to lose his marker. Rather than finishing it himself though, Ake showed vision and unselfishness to pass across the face of goal to Michy Batshuayi, who gets the simple goal his predatory positioning deserves.
Watford aren't going away just yet: Chelsea 3-2 Watford
A three versus two attacking overload at Chelsea’s right back position led to a Janmaat interception, leaving Azpilicueta exposed and Zouma dragged out of position. Janmaat then took Ake out of the equation with a fine dribble, and one on one with Begovic, curled it beautifully in to the keeper’s right. The game is very much alive.
Ole moment: Chelsea 3-2 Watford
Chelsea had begun to play their opponents like matadors with a bull. Willian, Hazard and Kante of all people led five Watford players a merry dance wide right, before a gentle pass in to Batshuayi who rolled his defender but had his follow up shot well saved by Gomes. It added to the party atmosphere, but if Watford equalized this passage of play wouldn't seem as much fun.
This is what you get: Chelsea 3-3 Watford
A Watford cross rebounded off Zouma to Stefano Okaka’s feet, who buried it past Begovic and into the corner. The goal would make one wonder why he didn’t start tonight, especially against a second string defence. At times this season Okaka has been one of Watford’s best players-A huge, Drogba-like presence that could trouble even a settled, experienced back line.
After all that hard work though: Chelsea 4-3 Watford
Two late subsititutions, Fabregas and Pedro on for Chalobah and Batshuayi respectively, led to another spell of Chelsea pressure. Kante neatly stripped Watford of possession (yet again) in a dangerous position, centrally in their own half. He passed right to Willian, who made a step-over at the corner of the box, halted, then hit a measured pass sideways to Fabregas, who had just arrived in the D. Only as a maestro would, Fabregas lobbed the ball coolly into the bottom left corner of the net. He might have been playing tennis on a calm Sunday afternoon. With 88 minutes on the clock. Stamford Bridge was jumping again. Watford players were sitting around stunned on the ground.
Seeing red: Chelsea 4-3 Watford
Defender Sebastian Prodl came in late on a sliding tackle on Pedro, whom to his credit didn't roll around on the floor looking for a booking; he was back on his feet right away. Having been left to make up his own mind, referee Lee Mason conferred with an assistant over his mic, then produced a second yellow to send the Watford player off. The game is effectively over. And after a few more tussles and niggling tackles on Pedro, and further yellows to Deeney and Okaka, it was.
Begovic - 6 - Showed none of the amazing reaction saves he made at Stoke, but his defenders did let him down for each goal conceded. Needs playing time to return to top form.
Terry - 7 - Great goal, then a lack of concentration to gift an equalizer immediately after. Also rusty. Still looks like he could play another season for Chelsea, but unfortunately he’s not going to get the opportunity.
Ake - 7 - Calm and assured in possession, but looks more of a defensive midfielder at times than a center back. Left for dead on Watford's second goal, but a brilliant assist for Chelsea's third.
Zouma - 7 - A slightly better performance today than a fewof his others this season, but also guilty of an error leading to Watford’s 3rd goal. He did provide an unintentional assist for the opener though. Needs playing time out on loan maybe, to recover stability.
Azpilicueta - 8 - Great performance out wide for a player thats been a rock this season, and a fine goal as well.
Kenedy - 7 (Aina - 5) - A mature, strong performance from the young Brazilian, combining well with Hazard in attack, and pretty solid in defence. You couldn’t tell he’d barely kicked a football this season. Needs solid playing time at Chelsea or out on loan. A young player who looks like he could be something special in the future - watch this space.
Kante - 8 - My man of the match, worked his tail off for his team (again), with excellent results (again). Recovered possession to assist the assist for the winning goal.
Chalobah - 7 - Solid in possession, showed good vision, passing and movement in attack, good positioning and interception without the ball. Will grow into his role with game time.
(Fabregas - 8) - Saved the day. He’s the maestro. What else can I say?
Willian - 7 - He was everywhere tonight, providing calmness and leadership for the young players around him. Great decision making and assist for the winning goal.
Hazard - 7 - Fabregas was right, Hazard should be more selfish sometimes - he might have scored one or two goals today. An uncharacteristically quiet game for Chelsea's best player, but a quiet day for him is typically better than a regular player’s good day, so...
Batshuayi - 8 (Pedro - 6) - Michy did well as a target man first half but it didn’t look like it was going to be his day for goals. Mr. Conte must have said something at half time though- he was a changed player in the second half, living on the goal line, scoring one and making more shots on target overall.
Gomes - 7
Mariappa - 5
Prodl - 6
Holebas - 6
Amrabat - 6
Cleverley - 5
Behrami - 6
Doucoure - 5
Janmaat - 7
Capoue - 7 (Deeney - 5)
Niang - 5 (Okaka - 7)