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Report: Watford 1 Chelsea 2

For the second time this week Diego Costa struck a late winner after Michy Batshuayi had equalised with his first Chelsea goal.

With 10 minutes to play we trailed to an emphatic Etienne Capoue effort, but our two strikers did the damage in the closing stages to continue our perfect start to the season.

Sub Batshuayi struck first, pouncing on a Heurelho Gomes error, and then just as on Monday Diego Costa grabbed a late winner, calmly finishing after another sub, Cesc Fabregas, had quite magnificently picked him out. Antonio Conte’s attacking substitutions when the Blues were behind worked a treat after we had struggled to break down a resolute Watford rearguard.  

So it’s a perfect start to the league season. Attention now turns to the EFL Cup and the visit of Bristol Rovers on Tuesday night.

Conte’s only change to the team that began Monday’s win was enforced. Willian had a small calf problem and so Pedro replaced him. Nathaniel Chalobah took the Spaniard’s place on the bench; aside from that it was as you were.

And it was as you were in terms of the Blues not conceding in the opening quarter-of-an-hour, a run dating back to the end of the 2014/15 season. That’s not to say the opening exchanges didn’t pass without danger, namely when Thibaut Courtois saved well from Jose Holebas.

For us, Eden Hazard was the main man early on. One low cross nearly found Diego Costa, and then Troy Deeney cynically halted him and was booked. Gary Cahill also saw yellow for an earlier foul on Capoue.

Our defender then had to be at his best to stop Odion Ighalo turning in an Nordin Amrabat centre from close range as the rain began to pour down in Hertfordshire midway through the half.

It was windy too and the conditions weren’t conducive to free-flowing football, with niggly fouls and overhit passes adding to the lack of fluency.

There was a moment of controversy a couple of minutes before the interval when Gomes spilled the ball and then reclaimed it only after a Watford defender had taken it away from Diego Costa and Nemanja Matic’s path. Referee Jon Moss did not deem it a back-pass and so the teams went in goalless.

Hazard blasted a shot wide from a searching Oscar cross as we sought to seize the initiative early in the second period.

Instead it was Watford that did just that with 55 minutes on the clock. Adlene Guedioura had time to cross and then an unmarked Capoue had space to shoot when the ball reached him, lashing his strike high past Thibaut Courtois.

On the hunt for an instant response, Hazard and Pedro neatly linked up but the former’s cross was intercepted by Gomes. Matic shot wide on the hour. More quality was required in the final third.

Branislav Ivanovic, making his 250th league appearance for the club, nearly provided it after breaking beyond the Hornets’ backline, taking the ball away from Gomes and firing into the danger zone. It was deflected behind. From the resulting corner we appealed for a penalty for handball, to no avail.

Conte made his first change with 20 minutes remaining, Victor Moses replacing Pedro, and then Batshuayi was brought on for Oscar. Fabregas was the third and final change for his first minutes of the campaign, Matic making way. 

The Spaniard was immediately involved as we levelled things up. He fed Hazard outside the box and the attacker didn’t need a second invitation to shoot. His effort was hit hard but Gomes will be disappointed he couldn’t hold it; the Chelsea fans behind his goal certainly weren’t as Batshuayi was quickest to the rebound, firing into the net and sparking pandemonium in the away end.

He nearly created a second for Ivanovic near the goal-line but Gomes pounced. We weren’t to be denied for long.

Fabregas was the instigator, winning possession on the edge of his own box and instantly threading a beautiful, bending pass that sent Diego Costa racing clear. The striker kept his cool as he bore down on goal, slipping his shot under Gomes and putting the Blues ahead very late on. He was quick to thank Cesc for the stunning through ball.

Batshuayi thumped the bar deep into five minutes of injury time after good work from Moses, but it didn’t matter one jot as the Blues held on for a second consecutive 2-1 win and six points from six. The good start to the Conte reign continues.

Chelsea (4-1-4-1): Courtois; Ivanovic, Cahill, Terry (c), Azpilicueta; Kante; Pedro (Moses 71), Oscar (Batshuayi 73), Matic (Fabregas 78), Hazard; Diego Costa.
Unused subs Begovic, Aina, Loftus-Cheek, Chalobah.
Scorers Batshuayi 80, Diego Costa 87
Booked Cahill 20, Diego Costa 56, Hazard 90+2

Watford (3-5-2): Gomes; Cathcart, Prodl, Britos; Amrabat, Behrami, Capoue (Doucoure 84), Guedioura (Vydra 89), Holebas (Zuniga 90); Deeney (c), Ighalo.
Unused subs Pantilimon, Nyom, Anya, Hoban.
Scorer Capoue 55
Booked Deeney 19, Britos 69, Holebas 70, Behrami 90+4

Referee Jon Moss
Crowd 20,772

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