1. Gomes on top form to frustrate old flame Hiddink
He had nothing to do in the first 45 minutes, but by the end Watford goalkeeper Heurelho Gomes was picking up the man of the match award and words of praise from both managers.
In fact it took an hour for Chelsea to register a shot on target at Vicarage Road, with Nemanja Matic’s ambitious volley gathered by Gomes at the second attempt, but as the Blues’ second-half performance improved, so did the Hornets’ gloveman.
Ten minutes after Matic’s sighter, Oscar cut inside before stinging the palms of the Brazilian, and the former Spurs shot-stopper saved the best until last, clawing away Diego Costa’s header.
“I’m disappointed that we didn’t get the deserved three points, because my former goalie Gomes was nominated as the man of the match and he highly deserved it because he made some tremendous saves in the last period of the game when we were threatening to go for the win,” said Hiddink, who signed Gomes for PSV Eindhoven from Cruzeiro in 2004 and reached the Champions League semi-finals a year later.
The Blues are now unbeaten in all 10 games since Hiddink’s return was announced on December 19, and although he has yet to witness back-to-back league wins, the Dutchman is confident it will come.
“I’m not too concerned because we are coming out of a difficult time for the team,” he said. “The way we played in the second half, we showed ambition and we didn’t reward ourselves.”
2. Deeney and Ighalo flourished in the first half...
Chelsea headed home rueing missed opportunities, but the same can be more than said of the home side who could have been out of sight by the half-time break thanks to their in-form front pair.
Odion Ighalo in particular caused plenty of consternation among the Blues’ backline. The Nigerian had scored 7 goals in 7 home Premier League games prior to kick-off, and fired off 5 first-half efforts as well as failing to make a telling contact on Jose Holebas’ inviting cross, allowing Cesar Azpilicueta to clear.
Troy Deeney had created 26 goalscoring chances for Ighalo in the league before this game, and with the skipper dominating his aerial duels (winning 6 out of 7 in the first half), the former Granada goal-getter was able to receive the knockdowns and run at Chelsea (completing 5 out of 7 first-half take-ons), while Deeney’s 11 passes to Ighalo was the Hornet’s most successful combination before the interval.
As well as Ighalo’s attempts, Sebastian Prodl’s powerful header had to be caught by visiting keeper Thibaut Courtois, who later had to parry Etienne Capoue’s right-footed stinger away to safety.
3. ...but they faded in the second
In what was Watford’s 100th Premier League encounter, home fans were hoping to see a first victory over Chelsea since Allan Smart’s strike in 1999 sunk a Blues side that featured Marcel Desailly, Didier Deschamps and forgotten Danish defender Jes Hogh, making 1 of his 6 league starts for the club.
The Hornets started the second half as they had ended the first with Deeney’s volley sailing wide and Holebas’ driving run into the penalty area finishing with his fierce shot hitting the side-netting.
But once Matic had warmed Gomes’ gloves the tide began to turn. Ighalo didn’t get a single sight of goal in the second period, while Deeney and Jose Manuel Jurado, another impressive first-half performer, were less effective in wider roles as coach Quique Sanchez Flores perhaps guarded against more late heartache like they had suffered at home to Manchester City and Tottenham Hotspur at the turn of the year.
This maturing Hornets side already have 5 more points than they amassed in their 2006/07 top flight campaign, with a 7th clean sheet from 13 league home games sending them up to 9th in the table.
“We don’t know the word ‘disappointed’ at Watford this year,” the former Atletico Madrid head honcho said afterwards. “We are enjoying the experience of being in the Premier League. In the first half we tried to play our football, we created attempts and felt safe. We had control, which is amazing to think before the game. In the second half it was difficult because their physical power was amazing, but to be competitive against Chelsea, get a point and be in the top half of the table means we have a lot of reasons to be happy.”
4. Terry does his talking on the pitch
John Terry’s decision to reveal Chelsea wouldn’t be extending his contract beyond the summer had the desired affect in the stands, with the travelling support singing his name from start to finish.
This was the sort of match that has helped characterise the Blues’ skipper over the years, particularly in the first period when the visitors had to dig in and weather a sizeable storm from the northwest Londoners.
Terry made 5 clearances, 5 interceptions and 9 ball recoveries (a figure bettered only by left-back Azpilicueta) to help keep the Hornets at bay. And having been the centre of attention before kick-off, the former England skipper almost ensured he hogged the post-match headlines after a late surge forward.
Intercepting the ball high up the pitch in the 85th minute, Terry continued his run into the penalty area but was left frustrated as Costa could only divert the ball into the side-netting at the far post.
5. Panto villain Costa picked on by Paredes
It’s not often that the striker everyone loves to hate can claim to be the victim, but for once Chelsea’s No.19 was worthy of some (but not much) sympathy after a confrontation with Juan Carlos Paredes.
Costa had already riled the Rookery End after pushing Prodl to the floor earlier in the first half, and as the interval approached things boiled over as he and the Ecuadorian defender hit the deck.
Both players were booked for their part in proceedings, but it was Paredes’ playacting that attracted more criticism and Watford skipper Deeney even admitted he would be speaking to the right-back.
"It was just handbags. It's modern-day football. I remember playing Sunday League and that wouldn't have happened – you'd have been laughed at,” he said. "It's just one of those things. The age we are living in everyone pushes, everyone rolls around and sees if they can get the other person sent off. I don't particularly like it and I'll be having a word with Paredes on our side."
While Hiddink was quick to point the finger at Paredes, saying: "It was very close to us so we saw what happened. Paredes gave him a push in the back and after that the two of them were stumbling and he [Paredes] brought his hands to his face. Diego was not near his face, they just stumbled a bit. So they tried to provoke Diego a bit, but I definitely have to defend him on what we saw just in front of our eyes. When they are provoked I protect my players.”
- Chelsea have won 7 and lost 0 of the last 10 matches against Watford in all competitions (D3).
- Watford have won just 1 of their 8 Premier League games in the month of February (W1 D3 L4).
- Watford kept their 7th clean sheet at home in the Premier League this season – only Man United (8) have more at home in 2015/16.
- Chelsea didn’t manage a shot on target until the 60th minute of this match.
- Watford attempted 3 shots on target in this game and all came between the 27th and 28th minute.
- Watford have conceded a league-low 7 goals in the first half of Premier League games this season.
- Diego Costa has been given 15 yellow cards in the Premier League since he joined Chelsea in the summer of 2014 – 4 more than any other striker in this period.
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