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Champions Chelsea edge extremely stupid match, tie Premier League wins record

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A second-string Chelsea team were bailed out at the last minute by Cesc Fabregas, beating Watford 4-3

Chelsea v Watford - Premier League Photo by Shaun Botterill/Getty Images

This wasn’t John Terry’s Chelsea testimonial, although it might as well have been. With the title secured on Friday and the relegation scrap 100 percent over, there was limited reason for either the Blues or visiting Watford to give even the slightest of [funs] how this game shook out. Which showed in the lineup Antonio Conte threw out: only two first-team regulars turned up in their usual positions, with full Premier League debuts handed to Michy Batshuayi and Nathaniel Chalobah.

There was a start too, for Kenedy, but one suspects that that was mostly for humourous purposes: the Hornets being forced to give a guard of honour to a player who couldn’t crack their own lineup for six months was comedy at its highest. I could look at Watford’s lineup to work out if they were resting anyone in particular, but frankly, I don’t care very much, and neither do you.

It was entirely possible that a match like this ended scoreless, with both sides pootling around a bit before everyone went home. That would have been a disappointment: getting to 90 points was still on the table for Chelsea, a total which hasn’t been hit for nearly a decade, as was the total Premier League wins record of 29. So a win was needed, and the Blues went for it.

Within minutes Willian had breached the back line, blowing past Jose Holebas like an F-1 car racing a particularly wobbly tricycle. The Hornets managed to scramble the ball to safety that time, but they couldn’t hold out for long: eventually the Blues won a corner and the inevitable occurred.

I say inevitable, but that doesn’t do justice to the opener, which probably deserves some sort of extended riff involving the Moirai. In lieu of poetic inspiration, however I’ll leave you with this: a delivery bounced wildly off Kurt Zouma (more of this later) and straight into the path of John Terry, who shanked in off the post for his first goal of the season.

Equally poetical was the equaliser. Chelsea had barely finished celebrating by the time Etienne Capoue rammed his way onto the scoresheet. Capoue had opened the scoring in the reverse fixture with a blazing volley beyond Thibaut Courtois, but he had rather less to do this time around. Chalobah and Terry got in each other’s way on what should have been a routine back headed to Asmir Begovic, and the muddle presented Capoue with an easy chance to head home. Oops.

Terry both scoring and being at fault for a goal within 90 seconds would have made for a zany enough match, but we weren’t done there. Before halftime, Cesar Azpilicueta, the only member of the regular lineup without a league goal this season, found himself on the end of a partially cleared corner and immediately thumped the ball past Heurelho Gomes to restore Chelsea’s lead.

That lead grew through Michy Batshuayi. The interval hadn’t solved Watford’s corner woes: Kenedy picked up a loose ball just outside the box, went for a shot and instead saw his deflection turn into a perfect pass for Nathan Ake. A fortunate touch set him up for a shot, but rather than risk firing straight at the goalkeeper Ake squared to Friday’s hero for a simple tap-in.

Watford’s response was immediate and thoroughly bizarre. Darryl Janmaat, who’s one of those international footballers who’ll be remembered mostly for being so forgettable, somehow managed to escape both Terry and Zouma out on the right wing before bearing down on Ake, turning him inside out and scooping a shot just inside the far post.

Chelsea v Watford - Premier League Photo by Richard Heathcote/Getty Images

At 3-2 Chelsea were still in control, but needed a fourth to feel truly secure. They nearly got one through Azpilicueta, who combined with Willian to rob Holebas just outside the box and forced Gomes into a sprawling save with an angled drive. If there was anything that suggested this was a pointless end-of-season match, the fact that Cesar Azpilicueta came within an inch or two of grabbing a brace should do it.

The aforementioned control faltered under the barrage of sustained idiocy that this game seemed determined to provide. Watford flooded the Chelsea left, drawing Eden Hazard off Tom Cleverley. Cleverley’s ball into the box struck Zouma, whose attempt to clear under pressure went somewhat awry and let Stefano Okaka stab home to equalise with 15 minutes to play.

But we weren’t done yet. Cesc Fabregas made his appearance, and after a few nonsensical scrambles around our half, the match swung back in our favour. Chelsea’s last big push saw Willian, fed by N’Golo Kante, drive into the box, do a stepover or two and then square to Fabregas, whose delicious first time finish bounced twice on its way past Gomes and into the corner. 4-3. Job done.

There was time enough for some cattiness from the visitors, whom I suspect spent all evening being wound up by the champion-understudies. Sebastian Prodl was already on a booking for a vicious scissor-tackle on Michy Batshuayi when he went in hard on Pedro and got his marching orders, and deeper into injury time Pedro drew a crowd after getting knocked down by a flying shoulder from Troy Deeney. If that sounds like a stupid sort of confrontation ... well, it was a stupid sort of game. We won it, though, and I guess that’s what matters.

Wait, it doesn’t. We were already champions.

If you made it this far, a treat:

"Which type of food?! It's important this! In this case I am very angry with him because he should give me a bit of chocolate cake, to share because I was suffering during the game! To eat a bit of cake would have been good.

"Next time I will tell him to think of me."

Yes, that’s Antonio Conte chastising Diego Costa for not bringing him cake at halftime. Just your usual Premier League match, then.