Frank Lampard watched his side record a fifth straight Premier League win at Vicarage Road, a result that propelled them up to third in the table, and afterwards hailed a performance that he largely enjoyed watching.
Goals from Tammy Abraham, the young striker’s 10th of the season, and Christian Pulisic, his fourth in two games, opened up a 2-0 lead with an hour remaining. However, Lampard felt his side failed to take the chances that ought to have put the game beyond doubt and, when Watford were awarded a contentious penalty by the video assistant referee (VAR), our lead was halved with 10 minutes to play.
That ensured a nervy finale and the Blues owed a debt of gratitude to Kepa Arrizabalaga, who dived low in the final action of the match to palm away a header from his opposite number, Ben Foster, as the Hornets threw everything at a last-ditch equaliser.
Lampard had strong words on the current use of VAR, which he believes is not fulfilling its remit of intervening on only clear and obvious mistakes from the on-field officials, but the boss started his post-match reflections by praising the overall performance of his side in Hertfordshire.
‘We dominated the game, played some great football for big periods of it and created enough chances,' he said. 'You have to give credit to Ben Foster because he made some great saves but we feel ourselves that there’s at least three or four goals in that game.
‘Two goals is never enough to put a game to bed. We’ve felt that already this season and it’s been a bit of a story of our season at times, especially away from home, but that shouldn’t take away from how well we played.
‘I enjoyed watching a lot of the play. For 25 minutes, it was outstanding and we controlled it, then we got a bit sloppy but again in the second half the link between Jorginho, Mateo Kovacic and Mason Mount a bit higher was really good. They’re all comfortable on the ball, they have the ability to find a forward pass and break the line and Kovacic in particular drove from midfield a couple of times. I thought they were outstanding.’
Watford’s goal came from the penalty spot courtesy of a contentious VAR call and Lampard feels the system in its current state is not working.
‘Last week we saw a change in VAR, a clear change in penalties being overturned. I was at a [Premier League] Managers Meeting in the week where we spoke a lot about it and the absolute consensus from managers, referees and the Premier League was that penalties or decisions would not be overturned unless they were absolutely clear and obvious. This [Watford’s penalty] was nowhere near that.
‘Anything that takes that long means they’re not sure about it so why wouldn’t they use the screens on the side of the pitch? I know it’s a bit contentious and it might put pressure on referees but if we’re going to say there’s a grey area and turning over decisions because one referee somewhere else thinks it was more of a penalty than the referee on the pitch did then I think we’re in a dangerous place.’
There was praise for Kepa, whose late save proved crucial, as well as the goalscorers.
‘It was a brilliant save and we got what we deserved. Sometimes you need your goalkeeper to produce moments like that - that’s what they’re there for. Sometimes it can be a quiet afternoon and it certainly was for him today so I’m pleased for him. It’s great for a keeper’s confidence when those moments come.
‘It’s great to see Christian scoring a goal from four yards out. I love to see that because he could have decided not to go the extra mile and then that ball flashes across the face but nobody gets on the end of it. If he continues doing that sort of thing then the goals will rack up because there are a lot of goals to get in the six-yard box. I thought his general performance was top as well.
‘I joked yesterday with Tammy that he’s on a barren patch having not scored for three games but he’s so hungry, he works hard, he wants to score goals. I thought the timing of the link between him and Jorginho for the goal was fantastic and then it’s a great finish, and the assist where the pace of the cross that he gets on it really makes it.’
The Blues have now won seven consecutive away games in all competitions – a club-record while in the top-flight – and Lampard explained why he felt that was.
‘The players are working hard. The way we’re working off the ball, we have to put in a lot of leg work and I’ve got players who are putting in the work. They’re training the way they want to play.
‘Maybe away from home teams open up against us slightly more. I don’t think today was one of those days but it’s happened in certain games, which then gives us the opportunity with the pace we’ve got in forward areas that we can counter-attack and create chances. Whereas at the Bridge, teams come and make it difficult for us to do that with as much freedom.’