Report: Watford 4 Chelsea 1
news Mon 5 Feb 2018
The Blues equalised with 10 men but three late Watford goals at Vicarage Road condemned us to a second straight Premier League defeat.
Tiemoue Bakayoko was sent off on the half-hour for a second bookable offence when the game was goalless, and we were further punished for a disappointing first-half performance all round by Troy Deeney’s penalty, scored shortly before the break.
The Blues were markedly better in the second period, playing with plenty more focus and quality, helped by the introduction of Olivier Giroud, and we were rewarded for our endeavour when Eden Hazard fired in a fantastic equaliser from range with 82 minutes gone.
The goal only served to send Watford on the attack, though, and they found gaps in our tiring defence to net three times before the final whistle and bring an end to our 13-game unbeaten run against the Hornets in emphatic fashion.
Antonio Conte made three changes from last week’s defeat to Bournemouth. Andreas Christensen and Ross Barkley were missing, while Marcos Alonso’s absence was a precautionary one. In came David Luiz, for his first league start since October, Victor Moses, and the fit-again Willian.
Davide Zappacosta switched to left wing-back in Alonso’s absence.
Our hosts, managed by Javi Gracia for the first time at Vicarage Road, included Darryl Janmaat and Marvin Zeegelaar in their team. They set up to match our 3-4-3 formation.
The opening 10 minutes were unquestionably Watford’s, and we could count ourselves fortunate to have not gone behind in the early exchanges.
The first scare arrived inside three minutes when the Hornets had a handball appeal for a penalty against Gary Cahill waved away by ref Mike Dean. An underhit Bakayoko pass then nearly let Gerard Deulofeu in on goal, and the man on loan from Barcelona thumped a strike into the side-netting.
But it was the Hornets’ skipper, Deeney, who had their best chance early on, skewing wide from six yards out having escaped his marker from a corner.
Before the 20-minute mark, Richarlison intercepted another misplaced Bakayoko pass, and only a fine Gary Cahill block prevented Thibaut Courtois being called into action for the first time on a bitterly cold Hertfordshire evening.
By the midway point of the first half, our solitary attempt on goal had come from the right boot of Willian, who snatched at a loose ball inside the box and couldn’t keep his effort down.
Bakayoko went into the book on 25 minutes for fouling Etienne Capoue on halfway, and our midfielder’s evening wasn’t to last much longer. Dean harshly deemed his challenge on Richarlison to be worthy of another yellow card, and so we would have to play the final hour with 10 men.
Conte reacted to the dismissal by bringing on Cesc Fabregas for Willian to strengthen midfield. The onus would be on Fabregas, Pedro and Hazard to create the magic when we had the ball.
But the half was to get worse before the interval. Janmaat’s pass in behind Cahill found Deulofeu, who reached the ball ahead of Courtois. The contact was minimal but enough for the ref to decide penalty. Deeney made no mistake from the spot.
Pedro fired over in first-half stoppage time following a fine Moses run from deep, so we headed to the dressing room a goal and a man down.
Moses and Zeegelaar both required lengthy treatment early in the second half after an aerial collision. Behind them the travelling fans chanted in support of the Blues for a sustained spell, and were nearly given something to celebrate on 55 minutes when Moses’s dangerous cross evaded everyone in the box.
Deulofeu and Richarlison curled inches wide of Courtois’ left-hand post on the hour, and shortly afterwards Giroud was brought on for his Chelsea debut. The limping Pedro made way. The Frenchman’s first touch, winning a header from a long pass, was met by a huge cheer from the Chelsea support.
There remained work to do at the other end - Courtois made a sprawling save to tip an Abdoulaye Doucoure shot wide - but we had started to look more cohesive in attack. Moses and then Giroud forced good defensive clearances from men in yellow. The Nigerian was now playing in a more advanced role.
A beautifully crafted Chelsea move on 80 minutes brought our best chance yet. Fabregas found Hazard who burst into the box and cleverly cut the ball back. Azpilicueta dummied to allow Fabregas a clear shot on goal, but Orestis Karnezis got down low and held.
We didn’t have to wait much longer, though. Hazard received the ball 25 yards out, created space for a shot and picked his spot superbly.
Watford, having been on the back foot for quite a while, sprung back into life and retook the lead within a couple of minutes. Janmaat exchanged passes with Deeney, tiptoed deep into the area and finished back across Courtois.
It was game over on 88 minutes. The Hornets broke and Deulofeu had space to explore, though we were unfortunate when his shot took a deflection off Cahill and snuck inside the near post.
Our misery was complete when Roberto Pereyra, a second-half substitute, fired accurately past Courtois from a tight angle.
Giroud nearly got a debut goal in the sixth minute of stoppage time but was denied by Karnezis, so despite an improved performance after the break we suffered another defeat by a three-goal margin.
Chelsea (3-4-3): Courtois; Azpilicueta, David Luiz, Cahill (c); Moses, Bakayoko, Kante, Zappacosta; Willian (Fabregas 34), Hazard, Pedro (Giroud 64).
Unused subs Caballero, Rudiger, Emerson, Drinkwater, Hudson-Odoi.
Scorer Hazard 82
Booked Bakayoko 25, David Luiz 58, Fabregas 62
Sent off Bakayoko 30 (second yellow)
Watford (3-4-3) Karnezis; Mariappa, Prodl, Holebas; Janmaat, Capoue, Doucoure, Zeegelaar; Deulofeu (Carrillo 89), Deeney (c) (Gray 90+3), Richarlison (Pereyra 65).
Unused subs Bachmann, Ndong, Lukebakio, Mukena.
Scorer Deeney 42, Janmaat 84, Deulofeu 88, Pereyra 90+1
Booked Richarlison 45, Prodl 50
Referee Mike Dean