Chelsea booked their place in next season’s UEFA Champions League, riding on a second half blitzkrieg to cruise to a 3-0 win over Watford on Sunday.
The game started on the worst possible note for the Blues, with N’Golo Kante being forced off the pitch just 10 minutes in due to a hamstring injury. With Chelsea losing their workhorse in the middle of the park, Watford started dominating the proceedings and looked the likelier of the two sides to take the lead.
Kepa Arrizabalaga though, had other ideas, as he denied Troy Deeney with a brilliant fingertip save early on. Watford continued imposing themselves subsequently, but some wasteful finishing meant Chelsea managed to retain the parity heading into half-time. Post the interval, however, the screws would be turned by the hosts.
Moments into the second half, Ruben Loftus-Cheek found the back of the net, heading in from Eden Hazard’s corner. And, three minutes later, Chelsea saw their lead being doubled by David Luiz, who scored from another corner by Hazard.
The West Londoners continued dominating the proceedings and the win was finally rounded off 15 minutes from time, when Pedro threaded in a pass for Gonzalo Higuain, who made no error in scoring past Ben Foster.
The win saw Chelsea confirm their place in the top four and next season’s Champions League, with Arsenal being held to a 1-1 draw by Brighton & Hove Albion later that day, while Manchester United played out a stalemate with Huddersfield Town. The Hard Tackle now runs the rule over Maurizio Sarri’s men.
Kepa Arrizabalaga: 8/10
Kepa did not have a great deal to do on Sunday, even though Watford conjured up a number of chances, thanks to the wastefulness of the opposition attack in front of goal. The one moment when he did need to make a save, the Spaniard produced one right from the top drawer, stretching to his limit before tipping Troy Deeney’s header over the bar.
One of the best saves of the season, and one that kept Chelsea in the game early on. Distributed the ball well, whenever needed. Kepa is now starting to justify his standing as the most expensive goalkeeper in the world.
Cesar Azpilicueta: 6/10
A game of two halves for Azpilicueta, who struggled against Roberto Pereyra and Jose Holebas in the first 45 minutes. Post the break, however, the Chelsea skipper was solid, not letting much past him. Handed the armband to Gary Cahill late on in a moment of pure class.
Andreas Christensen: 7/10
A slow starter to the game, Troy Deeney gave Christensen a hard time early on, and won most aerial battles in the initial exchanges. But, when the Dane found his feet, there was no way past him, with only the physical presence of Deeney giving him a few jitters.
David Luiz: 7/10
Like his partner, Luiz had his fair share of struggles on Sunday, with the pace and trickery of Gerard Deulofeu proving to be a handful for him. But, once Chelsea started dominating the proceedings, the Brazilian provided a more assured presence at the back. Played his part in the win, scoring from an emphatic header to convert a corner by Hazard.
Marcos Alonso: 6/10
What has happened to Alonso? For a long time, he was one of the chief creative threats in the final third for Chelsea. But, he just isn’t providing much in attack these days and the same was the case against Watford. At the back, he had a constant battle with Will Hughes, with neither being a clear winner there.
N’Golo Kante: N/A
A frustrating afternoon for Kante, whose participation in the game was curtailed just ten minutes in. Sarri would hope his hamstring injury is not too serious, but if it is, this might be it for the season for the Frenchman.
Like much of the entire Chelsea side, Jorginho was slow to begin with, and was curiously sloppy on the ball. But, he was one of the chief catalysts in ensuring his side’s dominance for the last hour or so. Threaded in some beautiful passes over the course of the game, while also being dogged at the back, which suggests he is starting to evolve. Positive signs for Chelsea.
Mateo Kovacic: 7/10
A refreshing sight from Kovacic on Sunday, who took a lot of responsibility on the defensive side of things once Kante was taken off. On the ball, however, he was not always precise, losing the ball in critical areas at times. But, this was still a much better showing from the Croat, whose form bodes well for the remaining games.
Pedro was key in ensuring Chelsea’s solid output at the back, as he supported Azpilicueta well against the threat of Holebas. In the final third, the Spaniard looked too keen on making things happen, but was not able to apply the finishing touches. Did produce one of the best moments of the game though, when he provided the assist to Higuain.
Gonzalo Higuain: 6.5/10
Speaking of Higuain, it was an odd sort of game for the Argentine. For much of the first half, he found himself on the fringes, struggling to get in on the action. But, when Chelsea had the ball, his movement caused a lot of problems for the Watford defence. One such moment ended with the third goal, with his finish being superb.
Eden Hazard: 8/10
✓ Eric Cantona (1992-93)
✓ Matt Le Tissier (1994-95)
✓ Thierry Henry (2002-03)
✓ Eden Hazard (2018-19)
The only four players to score 15+ goals and provide 15+ assists in a single Premier League season. 🙌 pic.twitter.com/92yuGtPm2o
— Squawka Football (@Squawka) May 5, 2019
In what could be his final Premier League game at Stamford Bridge in Chelsea colours, Hazard was determined to leave his mark on the game. And, that is exactly what the Belgian superstar did. Crowded out in the first half hour or so, he used his nimble feet to good effect.
In the second half, Hazard provided the supply for the first two goals, with his set-piece delivery now a stuff of delight. Should have had a couple of more assists if not for some poor finishing. Involved in the move that led to Higuain’s goal. Hazard will be terribly missed by the Stamford Bridge faithfuls, if he indeed makes his way to Real Madrid.
Ruben Loftus-Cheek: 8/10
Loftus-Cheek came on much earlier than he would have anticipated. The additional minutes gave him another chance to show just why he has become a regular now. Driving Chelsea forward at every given opportunity, he posed a major threat in the final third, and grabbed a goal for himself with a headed effort.
Ruben Loftus-Cheek's game by numbers vs. Watford:
100% take-ons completed
93% pass accuracy
5 tackles made
5 take-ons completed
2 aerial duels won
He needs to play every game. 💪 pic.twitter.com/NyhWWFtT0P
— Squawka Football (@Squawka) May 5, 2019
Olivier Giroud: N/A
On for the final few minutes, Giroud barely had any time to make an impact.
Gary Cahill: N/A
A late substitution, Cahill was given the opportunity to say his goodbyes to the Chelsea fans at the Bridge as his time with the Blues comes to an end.