Chelsea bounce back in style against Watford and keep Champions League hopes alive

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This game was over as a contest before half-time, thanks to two Chelsea goals and a solid defensive performance.

Watford deserve credit for not allowing their heads to drop and making a game of it at times, but they were well beaten in the end.

Here’s how the two sides lined up for the game:

Chelsea, 4-3-3: Kepa, James, Christensen, Zouma, Azpilicueta, Barkley, Kante, Mount, Willian, Giroud, Pulisic.

Subs: 76’ Mount off for Hudson-Odoi, 76’ Giroud off for Abraham, 76’ Willian off for Loftus-Cheek, 78’ Kante off for Gilmour

Watford, 4-3-3-1: Foster, Femenia, Dawson, Kabasele, Mariappa, Capoue, Chalobah, Hughes, Doucoure, Sarr, Deeney.

Subs: 58’ Capoue off for Welbeck, 64’ Deeney off for Cleverly, 64’ Femenia off for Masina, 83’ Sarr off for Pereyra

First Half

Chelsea came flying out of the blocks at Stamford Bridge and two early chances might’ve taken a resurgent Watford by surprise.

The game had an unusually brisk pace about it in the opening 15 as both sides looked to get a foothold in the midfield.

Mason Mount and Christian Pulisic were particularly sprightly for the Blues, with Kiko Femenia and Will Hughes driving the Hornets forward.

It was Pulisic who set up Olivier Giroud on 18 minutes but the Frenchman wasn’t able to beat Ben Foster with the goal at his mercy.

A similar chance fell to the same player on 27 and this time he made no mistake to put the hosts 1-0 to the good.

Knowing that defeat wouldn’t help them in their quest to stay in the Premier League, Nigel Pearson’s charges dug their heels in, but a rash challenge by Capoue on Pulisic meant the hosts were awarded a penalty just before half-time.

Willian tucked the spot-kick away on 42 with ease, making Watford’s task that much harder.

Second Half

Watford did at least come out fighting in the second half and whilst some of their play was a little ungainly, they started to make things difficult for Frank Lampard’s side.

On 55, a great move between Mount and Pulisic almost saw a third, with the resulting corner safely gathered by Ben Foster.

Thereafter, the visitors reverted to type and allowed Chelsea to attack at will with the following 10 minutes spent almost entirely in Watford’s half.

Nigel Pearson reacted by bringing on Adam Masina and Tom Cleverly for Kiko Femenia and Troy Deeney, and almost immediately they were able to push forward into opposition territory, relieving the burden on their defence in the process.

Masina came closest on a couple of occasions to pulling one back and although he scored with neither, at least both shots were on target.

Frank Lampard reacted with a triple substitution of his own, with the balance then swinging back in favour of the home side.

Noticeably, Jorginho was left on the bench when N’Golo Kante had to leave the pitch, Lampard preferring to go with Billy Gilmour.

Will Hughes was still plugging away for Watford, the fulcrum for everything good that they were trying to do, so it was a shame that hardly any of his team-mates were on his wavelength.

Danny Welbeck, another sub for Watford, tested Chelsea keeper Kepa with 10 to play and Pulisic needed VAR to rule out another shout for a potential penalty late on.

The final action of the game came when Ross Barkley smashed the ball home in injury time for a well-deserved three points.

Courtesy of Google
Courtesy of Google

Post-match thoughts

Both teams were under pressure for different reasons.

Watford need the points to stay up, Chelsea had to bounce back after a poor defeat at West Ham and to keep their Champions League hopes on track.

Watford, apart from pockets of the match, were never really at the races and only have themselves to blame.

Frank Lampard should be delighted with the way his team performed as they head into the final few games of the campaign on a high.

More Stories Frank Lampard Nigel Pearson Olivier Giroud Ross Barkley Willian