Goalscorers: Pedro 12, Abdoulaye Doucoure 45, Roberto Pereyra 49, Michy Batshuayi 71, 90, Cesar Azpilicueta 87
Chelsea: Thibaut Courtois, Cesar Azpilicueta, Marcos Alonso (Willian 68), Gary Cahill, David Luiz, Antonio Rudiger, Tiemoue Bakayoko, Cesc Fabregas, Eden Hazard, Pedro (Davide Zappacosta 86), Alvaro Morata (Michy Batshuayi 61)
Watford: Heurelho Gomes, Miguel Britos, Christian Kabasele, Adrian Mariappa (Andre Gray 90), Kiko Femenia, Jose Holebas, Tom Cleverley, Abdoulaye Doucoure, Roberto Pereyra (Andre Carrillo 65), Richarlison, Troy Deeney (Ben Watson 80)
Referee: Jon Moss, Attendance: 41,467
By mid-October 2017, defending champions Chelsea were already off the pace being set by league leaders Manchester City. Antonio Conte’s men were nine points adrift and went into this match against Watford below their opponents in the table. Marco Silva’s side had just beaten Arsenal a week earlier and arrived at Stamford Bridge in confident mood. They were unbeaten on their travels, with 10 points collected from four away games. If it hadn’t been for a couple of vital substitutions and wasteful finishing, they could well have added to their total in an end-to-end contest.
Having lost their last two league matches to Manchester City and Crystal Palace, the pressure was on Chelsea to revive their fortunes and they made a brilliant start. Pedro opened the scoring after just 12 minutes, bending in a magnificent strike from 25-yards out that struck the post on its way past the helpless Heurelho Gomes. However, the defensive backline which had been so strong in their title-winning season was being opened up much easier in this campaign.
Right on the stroke of half-time, Watford equalised. Abdoulaye Doucoure smashed a shot into the back of the net after David Luiz failed to get enough distance on his clearing header from a long throw-in. It kept Doucoure’s impressive record up of 100% accuracy from shots on-target. His four shots on-target had registered four goals so far in the season for the impressive midfielder.
Another of Watford’s early season stars had been the Brazilian, Richarlison. However, he was guilty of two costly misses in the early moments of the second half. First, he inexplicably missed an open goal from six-yards out after Kiko Femenia had provided the perfect delivery into the box. Richarlison did make amends just over a minute later, when he picked out an unmarked Roberto Pereyra who guided the ball past Thibaut Courtois to give the Hertfordshire-based side a richly deserved lead. However, they should have put the game beyond the home side and again, it was Richarlison who missed another golden chance. He headed wide unmarked after a fine ball from Miguel Britos.
Conte sensed the momentum was with Watford, so threw on Michy Batshuayi and it was a substitution that paid off. With 19 minutes left, Watford’s centre-backs left him completely unmarked to place a looping header into the net from Eden Hazard’s delivery on the right-hand side. Silva then elected to take off his skipper Troy Deeney with 10 minutes remaining and brought on another central midfielder in Ben Watson in an attempt to shut down Chelsea’s threat. This gamble backfired.
With three minutes left, Cesar Azpilicueta arrived unmarked at the back post to nod a header past Gomes. With almost the last kick of the game, Britos was caught in possession by Tiemoue Bakayoko. His interception found Batshuayi who held off the attentions of Christian Kabasele and scored again to close down the match. Chelsea had shown the resilience of champions but Watford did get their revenge, recording a brilliant 4-1 home victory over the Blues in February 2018.