0-0, 90-plus minutes into a match where all the recent chances had fallen Chelsea's way is normally the cue for a last, frantic stab at goal. In a season where something was on the line, the Blues would have poured forward to find a winner. They probably wouldn't have found one -- last-gasp goals are difficult to score* -- but they might at least be expected to provide a glimmer of hope. This Chelsea, on the other hand, opted to do nothing.
*Unless you are notorious hero Salomon Kalou.
In their defence, the final 20 minutes, mysteriously coinciding with the introduction of Eden Hazard, were almost entirely competent. Branislav Ivanovic and Diego Costa both found themselves denied by fine saves from Heurelio Gomes, and Watford had started to creak under the strain. The first 70 were completely forgettable (and in truth I've already forgotten most of them), but there was some promise. For a little while. But then, when push came to shove, we collectively gave up and went home, content with a point from Vicarage Road.
A point! A draw! A clean sheet! The team has recalibrated itself rather well to its new situation, apparently striving for the results you'd expect from a mid-table non-entity, but it's been difficult for fans to adjust to this new reality. Seeing Chelsea obviously and clearly settle for a draw against Watford, away or not, is depressing. Or would be, if the rest of the season hadn't already turned the depression dials to 11.
The first half was dreadful. Chelsea had no fluency, and were perhaps fortunate not to concede. Loose balls were dropping to yellow shirts rather than blue, and the only competent attacking move we produced (Oscar came up with an extraordinary turn to find space in the box) was called back for a Costa foul off the ball. Meanwhile the Hornets were peppering Thibaut Courtois with shots. There weren't many real chances, but Watford were doing enough to be far more worried about them scoring than hopeful that we'd find the net.
The closest Chelsea can was completely against the run of play when Oscar punted, long and hopeful, toward Costa. Given not much to work with, he managed to turn Sebastian Prödl and squeeze off a shot, but unfortunately it took a deflection and trickled beyond the far post.
The chosen talking point from the game is of course Costa's 45th-minute encounter with Hornets right back Juan Paredes. Never has a mountain been so effectively made of a molehill. During a Chelsea throw-in, Paredes knocked Costa down with a shove and was repaid in kind shortly thereafter, but Mike Dean chose that as His Moment, taking a full three minutes to issue bookings to both parties. Parades' hilarious writhing around on the turf was also a highlight.
Chelsea were better after the interval but hardly good. John Obi Mikel forced a silly save with a deflected effort, Nemanja Matic send a thoroughly competent volley right down Gomes' throat and Oscar trickled a close-range shot wide after impressive play from Costa. Meanwhile, the issues in midfield and defence had been more or less resolved, with Fabregas in particular stepping up to plug the holes Watford had been exploiting before the break. We were also treated to Oscar crushing a pass into Mike Dean's groin, presumably avenging the treatment of his father.
The Blues' toothlessness had an obvious solution: Eden Hazard. His introduction had turned the game around when these team met at Stamford Bridge (let's ignore the result of the penalty he won), and it seemed obvious that throwing him on for the shambling corpse of Matic would put Watford under a bit of pressure. Thanks to the need to nurse his recent injury, that substitution was delayed and delayed and delayed.
Finally everyone got what they wanted. Fabregas dropped back, Oscar came off the wing and Hazard began driving at the Hornets. Chelsea looked competent again. Within minutes, some smart work had set up Ivanovic only for Gomes to fly out and make a fine save; later the Belgian allowed a Willian pass to get away while the goal gaped ahead of him. Still later a smart cross was met just late by Costa, whose twisting attempt to guide the ball home at the far post found only the side netting.
The best chance of all, however, had little to do with Hazard. A Willian corner landed in just the right spot, and Costa got enough on a contested header to send it floating towards the far corner. Gomes looked lost, too far away to make the save even if he was able to get a touch on it. But he flew across goal and clawed the ball away just before it crossed the line, condemning us to that 0-0 draw.
At this point everyone gave up. So shall I.