Chelsea orchestrated an incredible late comeback to claim a 2-1 victory over Watford at Vicarage Road on Saturday. The Blues maintained their 100% record at the start of the season, after winning by the very same scoreline they did in their first game against West Ham United last week.
Just like that game, it was Diego Costa who came up with the decisive goal in the dying minutes to give Antonio Conte’s men all three points. After a goalless first half, Watford took a shock lead on the hour-mark when Etienne Capoue unleashed an unstoppable left-footed volley into the top corner for his second goal in as many games. With the game seemingly headed for a home win, Conte wrung the changes and substitute Michy Batshuayi scored his first goal for the club in the 80th minute to bring the scores level, before Costa did the honours with the winner 8 minutes later.
Here are the major talking points from the game:
1) Watford shade the chances in a lacklustre first half
Conte once again chose Oscar ahead of Fabregas, and the lack of thrust and penetration in the Spaniard’s absence was apparent in the first half. Chelsea failed to get a foothold in the game, and it was the home side who had the two best chances in the opening period. Jose Holebas got through, but was thwarted by Thibaut Courtois from a tight angle. The best chance fell to Odion Ighalo, for whom it looked like it was easier to score than miss when he got on the end of a cross, but the striker could only fire over from a couple of yard out under pressure from Gary Cahill.
2) A goal out of nowhere, and Chelsea have it to chase
The game lacked inspiration, and needed something special for the scoring account to open on the hour-mark, for Watford. A cross from the right evaded everyone and found its way to the back post, where Capoue was waiting to chest it down and volley home in the top corner. The Chelsea fans were fearing the worst with just half an hour left on the clock, and considering that the chances until then had been few and far between.
3) Conte’s substitutions make all the difference, Plan B works again
Just like last weekend, Chelsea needed to find a goal in the late stages of the game, and Conte opted to switch his formation and personnel. On came Batshuayi, Victor Moses and Fabregas for Oscar, Pedro and Nemanja Matic respectively. The Blues were going for the jugular with two forwards, and they now had arguably the best passer in the league in Fabregas, on the pitch. It didn’t take long for the breakthrough to come. Eden Hazard, who had looked sprightly throughout, tried his luck from 25 yards. Heurelho Gomes could only palm it back into the centre of the penalty area, and Batshuayi was at the right place at the right time to sweep home his first goal for the club.
The game was there to be won, and if there was anyone who could break down Watford’s well-drilled backline, it was Fabregas. The midfielder picked on a loose pass before finding an absolutely stunning defence-splitting pass for Costa. The striker ran through on goal and slipped the ball past Gomes to seal all three points. The fans in the away end went bananas, and with good reason. Conte’s celebration was slightly less exuberant than the one against West Ham last week, as he chose to hug his assistant this time rather than a fan.