Boxing clever

The Blues’ win over Watford continued our long unbeaten run on Boxing Day, which stretches back to 2004. Here are some of our best post-Christmas wins in that time.

Since falling to defeat at Charlton Athletic, we have played 14 matches the day after Santa has come down the chimney and nine of them have ended with Chelsea’s players giving the supporters three points as a late present.

The first game in that impressive sequence came in2004,when Damien Duff netted the only goal in a 1-0 win over Aston Villa which was far more comfortable than the scoreline suggests. The same, however, could not be said a year later when we hosted Fulham in the west London derby.

Local bragging rights clearly meant a lot to both sides in this five-goal thriller with our west-Londonneighboursat the Bridge. Early goals from William Gallas and Frank Lampard gave us a dream start, but Fulham pegged us back to 2-2 early in the second half. However, Hernan Crespo was on hand to steer home a left-foot volley at the back post to give us another crucial three points on our way to retaining the Premier League title.

A year later we were held 2-2 by Reading, one of five draws we’ve recorded as part of the unbeaten run, which included another in 2007 that will live long in the memory of Blues fans – but not necessarily for all the right reasons.

The Blues hosted Aston Villa in 2007 and after trailing 2-0, Andriy Shevchenko inspired a comeback which saw us lead first 3-2 and then 4-3, but red cards for Ricardo Carvalho and Ashley Cole followed, the latter leading to the penalty which Gareth Barry converted to give the Villans a share of the spoils. Even an EastEnders scriptwriter would struggle to pack that much drama into their Christmas special...

We eased past West Bromwich Albion in 2008 courtesy of goals from Didier Drogba and Lampard, before another Midlands draw after Joe Hart’s heroics helped Birmingham City to hold us to a 0-0 draw. Then, after not playing on Boxing Day in 2010, we were held again by Fulham when we met a year later.

Juan Mata scored in that game, and he was at it again 12 months on with the only goal to see off Norwich City, which was followed in 2013 by Eden Hazard’s goal seeing off Swansea City at the Bridge.

Fortunately, the entertainment levels were ramped up a notch with another Boxing Day derby in 2014, this time against West Ham. A 2-0 victory for the Blues was secured in altogether more comfortable fashion – and the margin could have been massive had it not been for the brilliance of Adrian between the sticks for the Hammers. However, the Spanish keeper could do little to keep out a tap-in from John Terry, who took his Chelsea tally to an incredible 61, and Hazard teed up Diego Costa for a fine left-footed finish which put the game out of the reach of our visitors from east London.

Our formercentre-forwardwas on target twice when we were held by Watford in the first game of Guus Hiddink’s second spell at the Bridge, but we were back to winning ways on our way to lifting the Premier League title in 2016/17 under Antonio Conte.

Against Bournemouth we recorded the 12th consecutive win of a then-Premier League record-equalling run of 13, this was as straightforward as they come thanks to another virtuoso attacking display matched by a solid rearguard. The attacking trio of Hazard, Willian and Pedro were simply too hot for the Cherries to handle. The latter netted twice, either side of a penalty by Hazard, and the victory rarely looked in doubt.

There was a big Spanish influence last year, too, and another a Feliz Navidad for the Blues as we beat Brighton & Hove Albion at Stamford Bridge. The Cesar Azpilicueta-Alvaro Morata combination resulted in the latter giving us the lead, while Marcos Alonso was also on target.

Throw in our victory against Watford last night and it’s clear that while Wizzard may have wished it could be Christmas every day, most Blues fans would settle for it being Boxing Day...