Chelsea serve fans a seven-goal thriller in 4-3 homecoming victory against Watford

Match Summary

Chelsea made hard work, but ultimately gave their fans an entertaining match, of their first match back at Stamford Bridge since being crowned champions with a 4-3 win against Watford.

With Conte making nine changes since clinching the trophy just 72 hours prior, John Terry was restored to the line-up and made himself hero and villain inside 25 minutes, scoring the game’s first before gifting Capoue an equaliser moments later.

Azpilicueta and Batshuayi put daylight between the two sides but Jaanmart and Okaka had other ideas, before the seven-goal thriller was settled by Fabregas coming off the bench.

Whilst in other circumstances Conte will be disappointed Watford scored from all their shots on target, it proved to be a good run-out for his fringe men as his side equalled the league record of 29 victories in a season, set by the Blues themselves in the 2004-05 and 2005-06 seasons.

And with Sunderland to go at home on Sunday, there is every chance the Italian could go one better than Mourinho’s run and secure 30 wins.

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The hosts were the division’s highest scorers going into the game with 76 goals, but even the most die-hard of Chelsea fans would not have expected this seven-goal spectacular, especially when noting the starting line-up omitted the likes of Costa and Pedro.

However the tone was set within three minutes by Willian, who was through on goal but cynically brought down to warrant the first yellow card on a busy evening for Lee Mason.

Whilst nothing came of that, great skill at Chelsea’s next attack between Batshuayi and Hazard could have yielded a goal but Hazard could not find the finish when he cut inside.

Batshuayi was then through on goal and his swivel and shot brought the corner from which Chelsea did break the deadlock. Willian’s outswinger was met, at the second attempt, by a flailing John Terry leg to score his first goal for Antonio Conte.

It was a romantic, if scrappy, goal, but the script-writer could not have timed it more perfectly for the Chelsea stalwart who is set the leave the club at the end of the season, for it was the 100th goal of Chelsea’s season, and 1,000th since Roman Abramovich took over, an era John Terry has been the lynchpin of.

Whilst the goal meant the Chelsea captain has now netted in each of his past 17 top-flight campaigns, he would undo the headlines, at least partially, by a momentary lapse in concentration which followed seconds later. A mix-up between Chalobah and himself when clearing the ball saw Terry head the ball too short back to Begovic and Capoue pounced to score just their second goal in 10 hours of action. Not so romantic after all.

Kante was clearly learning from Fabregas on the training field with a sublime Fabregas-esque  80 yard pass to Hazard, whose first touch let him down before Gomes smothered. The Belgian then was fed another delicious 80 yard ball by Willian, cutting inside but dragging wide of the near post.

Kenedy was seeking to establish himself in Conte’s plans for next season and whilst his shot was cleared by Gomes for a corner, it was from this set-piece Chelsea got their noses in front again. The ball fell kindly to Azpilicueta on the edge of the box and the Chelsea defender picked his spot and hammered it past Gomes from 20 yards for his first Premier League goal since January 2016.

The cushion became two early in the second half when Willian’s left-wing strike brought a good save from Gomes when it was destined to curl in, and from the corner Kenedy was urged to shoot. Whilst he did, he slipped and the stray shot found Ake who was deemed onside and the youngster unselfishly squared to Friday’s hero Batshuayi to tap in.

But Chelsea were clearly in party mode as once again Watford levelled within two minutes, with Jaanmart getting on the scoresheet after cutting in from the left.

Consistent Chelsea passages of play could not yet draw out the fourth goal but the hosts were probing. Hazard and Batshuayi got closest but Gomes saved with his feet from 5 yards, whilst Azpilicueta looked to grab his brace from 20 yards again but Gomes blocked this time.

Batshuayi nearly found Hazard racing clean through but for a last-ditch interception — it would have been a devastating counter attack — but Watford were in the mood to spoil a party when Okaka was introduced. Moments after coming on, the man who has played for Italy under Conte, scored against his former national team manager, latching onto a loose ball from a clever Cleverley dinked ball which none of the Chelsea back-three could deal with.

Conte introduced Aina and Fabregas in response and the latter magic man produced the goods once again, striking perfectly from the edge of the box as the game had one more goal in it.

Prodl got his marching orders in injury time for a second bookable offence, but the confetti came out soon after and the Chelsea fans could properly get into the party mood.

What are your thoughts from the game? Leave your thoughts in the Comments section below!

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Man of the Match

JOHN TERRY: I had to. Whilst he did play a big part in Capoue’s equaliser, the Chelsea captain has been a true stalwart and, in his penultimate ever Chelsea game, it was beautiful to see him roll back the years with a Terry-esque goal to break the deadlock. So scrappy but it sums up the Chelsea captain to throw his head at the ball and then be the first on the end of the loose ball to help his team out. A wonderful story. 7/10

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Manager Reaction

Conte knew the important task had been achieved: “We conceded three goals but we scored four and created many chances. The most important thing was we won. Now we have target to win 30 games. The most important thing was to win the league. Then if we have the possibility to improve these records, we must try. We can reach this target. The players and I want to reach this target.”

Mazzarri enjoyed the spectacle: “I am very proud of my team. We had several players out injured. Congratulations to Antonio Conte because he is a great manager. They have great players. They deserve the title.”

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Fan View

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Post written by Martin Li. Martin has had five years’ blogging experience, writing for the likes of Bleacher Report and SWOL. He runs his own Chelsea blog — The Chelsea Chronicle — which has match reaction and analysis from every Chelsea match. You can follow him on Twitter.

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© Martin Li and The Chelsea Chronicle, 2011-2017. Unauthorised use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this Blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Martin Li and The Chelsea Chronicle with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

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Costa the hero again with last-gasp winner as Chelsea win 2-1 at Watford

Match Summary

Diego Costa was the man of the moment for a second week running as Conte’s Chelsea made it two 2-1 wins from two.

After a goalless first-half, Capoue opened the scoring for the hosts, and it was looking like the Hornets would seal an unlikely victory. But super-sub Michy Batshuayi equalised with 10 minutes left and Diego Costa proved his worth with another last-gasp winner for the second week running.

It means Chelsea maintain their 100% winning record, and whilst both wins were unconvincing, the attitutde and never-say-die mentality will please the new boss Conte as an indication his side can grind out matches against tougher opponents, though the lack of free-flowing football may not please owner Abramovich.

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A rough start to the match with unfavourable weather conditions saw the opening stages of the match draw plenty of cynical fouls, with Deeney and Cahill both seeing yellow by Jonathan Moss.

Ighalo had the game’s first chance thwarted by Cahill but it was a first-half with little action and a lack of fluency.

The same would not be said about the second half. Guedioura was given time to cross and Capoue capitalised on the space Chelsea afforded him, striking high past Courtois.

The visitors looked to bounce back through Hazard, Pedro and finally Ivanovic, but Gomes was not to be denied.

Moses, Batshuayi and Fabregas all came on in a bid by Conte to inject some pace, and what a triple substituion it turned out to be.

Fabregas instantly found Hazard who fired in a low shot at Gomes’ goal, and despite a good dave, the loose ball found its way to the feet of Batshuayi who pounced to make it 1-1.

The Blues were not content on just the equaliser, with them desperately searching for the winner in the final 10 minutes, but the only obstacle in their way was time.

Batshuayi tried to turn provider by finding Ivanovic but the Serbian was denied. The club he was represrnting for the 250th time would not be denied for long though.

Fabregas again fed a delicious ball to compatriot Costa who took a deep breath and swept the ball underneath Gomes to seal another victory, which could have been made more handsome by Batshuayi in injury time but for the woodwork.

What are your thoughts from the game? Leave your thoughts in the Comments section below!

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Man of the Match

michy-batshuayi-thumbnailMICHY BATSHUAYI: What a super-sub! The Belgian has been overlooked with Costa preferred by Conte but shows he can still deliver a knock-out blow, equalising well and also hitting the post. The man is a beast and completely justified Conte bringing him on, causing Watford all sorts of problems in the box as the Hornets started to tire. 8/10

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Manager Reaction

Conte was delighted: “I’m pleased to see the reaction from my players and this win is very important for us as it gives everyone confidence. I think we showed a great intensity in the second half and we pushed them a lot. I’m pleased for the substitutes. They didn’t start but they showed great attitude and commitment with Fabregas and Batshuayi making a real impact.”

Mazzarri rued lapses in concentration: “I am happy for how we played for 70-80 minutes because we played very well but I am not happy with the result. They scored two goals that could have been avoided.”

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Fan View

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Post written by Martin Li. Martin has had five years’ blogging experience, writing for the likes of Bleacher Report and SWOL. He runs his own Chelsea blog — The Chelsea Chronicle — which has match reaction and analysis from every Chelsea match. You can follow him on Twitter.

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© Martin Li and The Chelsea Chronicle, 2011-2016. Unauthorised use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this Blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Martin Li and The Chelsea Chronicle with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Chelsea bore in 0-0 draw at Watford

Match Summary

Chelsea and Watford played out a cagey 0-0 draw in what was a tired Wednesday evening London derby.

The Blues, looking to continue the excellent attacking prowess shown at the weekend against MK Dons, failed to score thanks to an inspired Gomes, but he only had four shots on target to deal with whilst Courtois had three.

It summed up what was a laboured stalemate, with Chelsea extending their unbeaten run under Guus Hiddink to 10 matches, the league’s longest unbeaten run, but the reality remains that they are still in 13th position and four points behind Watford, let alone the 16 points still to make up to contend with a Champions League spot.

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It looked like it might have turned into an entertaining game. Ighalo, who had only moments earlier looked like he was injured and needed replacing, had an early shot in the sixth minute which tested Courtois.

Meanwhile at the other end, Oscar had what turned out to be the game’s best chance when he was running free on goal. Ready to unleash his shot, Costa inexplicably decided to push a Watford defender over in an off-the-ball incident, which meant referee Mike Dean stopped play. It was an outrageous sabotage of a goal from a striker who looks like he is still longing for his Madrid home.

Chances for Watford next presented themselves, with Holebas getting ahead of Ivanovic to send in a cross, and then Ighalo rose higher than Terry to get in a header. Fortunately for the visitors Ighalo failed to connect properly with the ball, but it was a let-off for Chelsea’s vice-captain and captain respectively, of which the former apparently is worthy of a contract extension but the latter not.

Watford were eager to press home their height advantage from any set-piece and this was shown when, seconds later, Prödl went totally unmarked from a Watford corner. A firm header looked like it would fly into the back of the net but for Courtois’ concentration levels and instinctive reflex save.

Another chance well Chelsea’s way just after the half-hour mark. Oscar’s hopeful punt forward turned out to be an excellent through ball, and Costa raced onto it well and even managed to get his shot away, but was deflected wide.

The half ended with bookings for both Costa and Paredes who enjoyed their square-up a little too much, as Costa was failing to let his football do the talking.

Oscar, Mikel and Matic all tried to deputise with shots of their own but Gomes was rarely tested. Hiddink saw no reason to continue to play both the latter two so it was Matic off and Hazard on, with the Belgian instantly injecting pace — but no goal.

Ivanovic should have scored the winner as the game entered the last 10 minutes but Gomes denied the Serbian by making himself big from five yards out.

What are your thoughts from the game? Leave your thoughts in the Comments section below!

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Man of the Match

john-terry.thumbnailJOHN TERRY: Despite all the recent media attention on Terry, who looks set to leave Chelsea in the summer, the captain showed why he still is needed at Chelsea. Whilst this was not a win, a clean sheet proves Terry kept Ighalo and Deeney at bay, even if his more attacking colleagues could not do their job. Tried to drive his side forward to find a winner late on and, with the side already desperately short on leaders, Terry needs to stay. 6/10

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Manager Reaction

Hiddink’s first game back in charge of Chelsea was against Watford on Boxing Day and he liked the progress: “We are disappointed because we didn’t get a deserved three points. It had been a difficult half-season for the team but we are playing better. It would have been a big reward winning tonight. We showed ambition tonight in the second half.”

Flores was happy with the point: “It was very hard to score against Chelsea, we had to stop the offences. They are very physical also but we’re happy with the performance and in the second half it was hard to stop Chelsea but I think we deserved this point.”

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Post written by Martin Li. Martin has had five years’ blogging experience, writing for the likes of Bleacher Report and SWOL. He runs his own Chelsea blog — The Chelsea Chronicle — which has match reaction and analysis from every Chelsea match. You can follow him on Twitter.

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© Martin Li and The Chelsea Chronicle, 2011-2016. Unauthorised use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this Blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Martin Li and The Chelsea Chronicle with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Chelsea draw 2-2 against Watford as Hiddink starts second Chelsea reign with stalemate

Match Summary

Guus Hiddink started his second reign in charge of Chelsea with a draw as Oscar missed a late penalty to clinch all three points for the Blues.

The popular Dutchman, in an interim post until the end of the season similar to his previous stint, watched as Costa broke the deadlock before seeing his side being pegged back by two Watford goals. Costa equalised but Oscar should not have squandered the penalty opportunity with 10 minutes left of play.

It leaves Chelsea in 15th position and just two points above the relegation zone with a tricky game on Monday against fellow strugglers Manchester United, but with the half-way point of the season nearly upon us, Chelsea must pick up points and quickly.

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After an instant resurgence in the Chelsea players’ performance in the immediate game after Mourinho’s sacking against Sunderland, this was a performance sinking back to the lows seen earlier this season. Chelsea were slow and lethargic, treating this as a training ground exercise to burn off those Christmas dinner calories. The reality should have been a side fighting for points but no-one would have noticed.

Guus Hiddink was introduced to mild applause as Costa’s name still continued to be subject to some boos as The Chelsea Chronicle witnessed from the East Stand on a windy Boxing Day afternoon.

Whilst the Blues did start positivity, it was again with no purpose. Hazard was dropped to the bench and it was between Pedro and Willian to pass the ball sideways, with Costa continuing the hide and Ivanovic and Azpilicueta providing their services with weak crosses.

After the fast start at Sunderland, a similar start was expected. Pedro’s cross to Costa was good but the header by Costa was not. Corner after corner by Willian was good, but the headers by Ivanovic were not. Willian’s free-kick opportunity was similarly wasted.

But, at least the game was played in the right end of the field from a Chelsea fan’s perspective, who were eerily quiet on the Jose Mourinho chants this time.

Watford’s first chance was the game’s best, as so often expected from Chelsea of late, but the unmarked Ighalo volleyed wide, before the in-form Nigerian squandered another chance from a Watford set-piece.

Chelsea had to be on their toes, but it was Chelsea who scored the first goal.

From one of their own corners, Terry rose tallest to send the long ball into the thick of things and Costa was on his toes to spin and rifle past Gomes. His celebration was one of anger and seemingly making a point to his doubters, but perhaps the Spaniard should concentrate more on his football.

Chelsea could not hold onto the lead and were pegged back with three minutes left of the first half. Matic decided to handle the ball inside the box from a Watford corner, and Deeney sent Courtois the wrong way.

Mikel came on in the second half to add some sturdiness to the Chelsea spine as Fabregas had sent one too many passes astray in the opening 45 minutes, but Mikel could not stop his compatriot Ighalo from edging Watford’s noses in front.

The Watford striker’s strike was looking to be a comfortable parry for Courtois but a big deflection off Cahill sent the ball flying into Courtois’ goal. It summed up Chelsea’s luck this season.

Chelsea needed to hit back and fortunately they did this quickly. Costa made the first run seemingly of the season as Willian’s excellent through-ball found the Spaniard, whose first touch was good and second found the back of the net.

Chelsea had half an hour to score a winner but never looked likely.

Oscar had the opportunity from the spot after substitute Hazard was bundled over in the box. You would have thought Hazard, Chelsea’s main penalty taker and so low on form, would have used this opportunity to score his first league goal of the season, or Costa to secure his hat-trick, but instead it went to the weak Oscar, who slipped and sent the ball to Row Z.

It was another two points dropped. For all the talk about Chelsea’s abysmal start to the season being Mourinho’s fault or the fault of his relationship with his players. Maybe it is just the players.

What are your thoughts from the game? Leave your thoughts in the Comments section below!

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Man of the Match

diego-costa.thumbnailDIEGO COSTA: Scored two goals, at last. Was instinctive by poaching the game’s first and made an atypically excellent run to latch onto Willian’s through-ball for his second. He still needs to contribute more and with less of the controversy, and still struggles to score a goal outside of the penalty area. 7/10

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Manager Reaction

Hiddink was honest that Chelsea deserved no more than a point: “At the end it is a fair result. I think we could have made a little bit more, we had some chances and it was a pity Oscar slipped for the penalty. Diego Costa, when he is focused on what he is good at, he has his profit from his play.”

Flores was pleased with his side’s endeavour: “I think we had the possibility to win but Chelsea played really well. They pushed us a lot and were probably closer to the win than us. We defended well, we fought a lot in the 90 minutes, and for us this is a very important point.”

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Post written by Martin Li. Martin has had four years’ blogging experience, writing for the likes of Bleacher Report and SWOL. He runs his own Chelsea blog — The Chelsea Chronicle — which has match reaction and analysis from every Chelsea match. You can follow him on Twitter.

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© Martin Li and The Chelsea Chronicle, 2011-2015. Unauthorised use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this Blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Martin Li and The Chelsea Chronicle with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Chelsea 3-0 Watford: Match Reaction

Match Summary

Chelsea saw out a cagey win against Championship side Watford thanks to goals from Willian, Remy and Zouma.

The Blues, who needed to recover from a heavy 5-3 defeat at Tottenham, put the fans through much anxiety with the deadlock only broken as we approached the hour mark. Before that, Watford proved resolute but it ended a canter for the hosts, with the scoreline deceptively flattering.

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Mourinho has never rotated his squad much but a 5-3 burn-out at Tottenham suggested humans just are not mechanical robots. Whilst today’s side was much-rotated, it was no lacking in quality, captained by Didier Drogba, who has scored in four FA Cup finals for Chelsea.

But there was no spark for the Blues, whose season has stalled somewhat, particularly in the first half. Frustratingly, Watford had the best chance, with Deeney’s shot skimming agonisingly past the post. Drogba had a firm header well saved, but it was a tight affair.

There was no desire for a replay with the fixture list already piling up so it was no surprise to see Mourinho pair all Blues frontmen — Drogba, Costa and Remy — together in the second half, the latter occupying a wider role.

And this proved too much for the Watford defence to handle.

Willian, perhaps the most willing player to take a shot out of all Chelsea’s attacking midfielders, curled a delicious effort in from 22 yards.

The normally frugal Mourinho was not going to shut up shop, though, with his frustrations evident in the first half. Remy would at least put a smile on his manager’s face with a goal in the top corner, before Zouma rounded things off with a neat header from Azpilicueta’s pass.

What are your thoughts from the game? Leave your thoughts in the Comments section below!

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Man of the Match

KURT ZOUMA: Hasn’t had much to shout about since joining Chelsea, resting as Chelsea’s third central defender, but showed his coming of age today. A good professional and, whenever he does get a game, usually performs well, rounding the afternoon off with Chelsea’s third. Cahill will be concerned. 7/10

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Manager Reaction

Mourinho saw it as a game of two halves: “It was difficult. In the first half we didn’t play well and Watford were well-organised defensively. The second half was different, we gave a different dynamic to the game. We created and we deserve to win.”

Jokanovic was disappointed: “I can’t be happy because we lost the game, but my team made a good performance. We had good organisation, we played many minutes without the ball.”

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Post written by Martin Li. Martin has had three years’ blogging experience, writing for the likes of Bleacher Report and SWOL. He runs his own Chelsea blog — The Chelsea Chronicle — which has match reaction and analysis from every Chelsea match. You can follow him on Twitter.

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© Martin Li and The Chelsea Chronicle, 2011-2014. Unauthorised use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this Blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Martin Li and The Chelsea Chronicle with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.