MATCH REPORT

Report: Watford 1 Chelsea 2

The Blues returned to winning ways thanks to an Eden Hazard brace at Vicarage Road on a night when the Belgian joined the Chelsea 100-club.

Maurizio Sarri’s side, who lost Pedro to injury, secured a hard-fought victory against Watford as we were made to work hard for the three points.

The opening goal, Hazard’s 100th for the club, arrived in added time at the end of the first half when he raced on to a Mateo Kovacic through ball and finished in style, but the hosts hit back immediately through Roberto Pereyra, who volleyed them level with virtually the last kick of the half.

Our lead was restored with what proved to be the decisive goal 13 minutes after the restart when Hazard converted from the penalty spot having won the kick himself, and although opportunities to extend our advantage were passed up by Willian and N’Golo Kante, it was a deserved victory as we responded to Saturday’s setback against Leicester in the perfect manner.

Sarri named the same starting line-up for the fourth consecutive Premier League game, meaning Hazard was deployed as the central figure in a front three, flanked by Pedro and Willian.

Jorginho, at the base, was joined by Kante and Kovacic in midfield, while David Luiz and Toni Rudiger continued their partnership at the heart of the back four. Both Emerson Palmieri and Callum Hudson-Odoi were named among the subs for the Blues.
 

In terms of the attacking trio, it was Pedro who had started on the right, with Willian on the left, and the two players almost linked up to devastating effect inside the opening two minutes.

Pedro picked the ball up out wide and cut inside, exchanging passes with Willian on the edge of the box and flashing a left-footed strike inches wide of Ben Foster’s right-hand post as we looked to get off to a positive start.
 

There was a scare at the other end as a stray Kepa clearance almost landed invitingly for Gerard Deulofeu in front of goal, but as the Blues played their way out of trouble, turning defence into attack within seconds, we were unfortunate not to take the lead.

Jorginho lifted the ball into the path of Kovacic, who advanced into the Watford half and picked out the run of Willian with an incisive ball in behind the Watford defence. The Brazilian used his electric pace to get there ahead of Kiki Femenia, before rounding Foster, but as he got his shot away from a tight angle the ball struck the outside of the post and rolled behind.

In attempting to make the clearance from Willian’s effort, Watford’s Christian Kabasele collided with the post, bringing his evening to a premature conclusion and forcing the hosts into an early change as Adrian Mariappa was introduced.

As the half-hour mark approached Watford threatened down the right-hand channel as Deulofeu slipped in Abdoulaye Doucoure. The midfielder skipped beyond the challenge of Rudiger but his left-footed drive was brilliantly charged down by the retreating Jorginho, who had read the danger and positioned himself accordingly.

It was Doucoure who was presented with another sight of goal just moments later when he blasted high over the bar from Pereyra’s pull-back after Troy Deeney had robbed Rudiger on the halfway line, but from our next attack we should have taken the lead when a superb Cesar Azpilicueta delivery rolled under the boot of Hazard with the goal at the Belgian’s mercy.

It was developing into an end-to-end contest, with both teams passing up decent opportunities to open the scoring, and the hosts were next to threaten. After Jorginho had lost possession, Deulofeu got away and cut inside Rudiger before rolling the ball across the box into the path of Deeney. Thankfully, David Luiz anticipated the danger and came across to make a crucial block from the Watford skipper.

Sarri was forced into a first substitution of the evening two minutes before the break when Pedro limped out of the action, and it was 18-year-old Hudson-Odoi, who scored his first Chelsea goal in the recent Europa League win over PAOK, chosen to replace the Spaniard, the youngster taking up a position on the right of the front three.

There was still time for another chance, however, and thankfully it fell to Hazard, who fired us in front with his 100th Chelsea goal in added time at the end of the half.

The goal owed much to the high pressing of the Blues, with Kante and Kovacic forcing Watford into an error on the halfway line. As the ball ran free, the Croatian was onto it and he quickly released Hazard, who raced towards goal, skipped beyond Foster and rolled the ball into an empty net to break the deadlock.
 

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The half appeared to have ended in the best possible manner, but a further twist lay in wait for Sarri’s side who conceded an equaliser almost immediately. Kepa had done well to save from Doucoure, but as the resulting corner was swung in by Jose Holebas, it was met on the volley by Pereyra, whose strike from the edge of the box rolled into the bottom corner.

Kante was unable to latch on to a trademark ball out from the back by David Luiz as the second half began, and the Brazilian defender was in the thick of the actiion at the other end moments later as he used his strength to thwart Deulofeu as the attacker raced into the box. The home fans' penalty appeals were correctly waved away, and almost immediately, at the other end, a spot kick was awarded our way.

The penalty was won - and converted - by Hazard, who had collected a Jorginho pass and been bundled over by Foster as he rounded the keeper. The Watford stopper could do nothing to prevent Hazard from restoring our advantage as the Belgian calmly sent him the wrong way to double his tally for the evening.

 

After conceding so soon after taking the lead prior to half-time, it was clear we wanted there to be no repeat of that pattern a second time, with the Blues keeping the ball, retaining possession and attempting to take the sting out of the game.

Our lead was almost extended with 20 minutes left on the clock as Willian's left-footed snapshot  brushed the outside of Foster's left-hand post with the Watford keeper rooted to the spot, but with only one goal separating the sides there was still plenty of work to be done.   

Another chance to tighten our grip on proceedings was then passed up by Kante, who instigated the move by finding Hazard inside our own half, before racing forward and taking the Belgian's return pass in his stride. The chance certainly wasn't an easy one, and Kante's low drive rolled agonisingly beyond the far post.

Deeney then went close for Watford when he turned the ball over at the near post, and with 12 minutes left to play Sarri made a second change of the night as Ross Barkley replaced Kovacic. Still searching for a route back into the game Watford quickly followed suit by introducing Isaac Success for Deulofeu.

Jorginho fired over the bar, and a deflected Willian effort rolled inches wide of the post, as we attempted to put the game to bed, before Hazard was denied a hat-trick by the legs of Foster with the last action of the game.

In terms of the bigger picture, however, it didn't matter. Hazard had already made a decisive contribution. The brilliant Belgian had ensured we were back on track, while becoming the 10th player in our history to score 100 goals for the club.

All in all, a good night's work.

Chelsea (4-3-3): Kepa; Azpilicueta (c), David Luiz, Rudiger, Alonso; Kante, Jorginho, Kovacic (Barkley 78); Willian, Hazard, Pedro (Hudson-Odoi 43) (Emerson 85).
Unused subs: Caballero, Cahill, Fabregas, Giroud.
Scorers Hazard 45+1 and 58 (pen)

Watford (4-2-3-1): Foster, Femenia, Kabasele (Mariappa 15), Cathcart, Holebas, Doucoure, Capoue, Sema (Quina 66), Deulofeu (Success 82), Pereyra, Deeney (c).
Unused subs: Gomes, Cleverley, Masina, Okaka
Scorer Pereyra 45+3
Booked Foster 58

Referee Martin Atkinson
Crowd 20,415

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