Watford may be the Premier League’s comeback kings, but even they could not manage a second turnaround at Stamford Bridge in the early kick-off on Sunday.
Pedro Rodriguez gave Chelsea the lead with a superb strike in the 12th minute, but Watford continued to exude confidence in possession and pushed men forward in search of an equaliser. The hosts’ attacking threat seemed to subside midway through the first half, which encouraged the Hornets to keep attacking as they sought a second successive success following last weekend’s triumph over Arsenal at Vicarage Road.
They had their reward on the stroke of half-time when Abdoulaye Doucoure, who was again impressive alongside Tom Cleverley in the centre of the park, struck after Chelsea failed to clear Jose Holebas’ long throw. Things got even better for the visitors shortly after the break, Roberto Pereyra slotting home just moments after Richarlison spurned a golden opportunity from Kiko Femenia’s cross from the right.
An away side would usually expect to face an imminent onslaught after going 2-1 up at Stamford Bridge, but that was strangely lacking after Pereyra’s goal. In fact, Watford were in firm control of the game for a long while after, fashioning further opportunities and spending a significant amount of time in Chelsea’s half of the field. The Blues’ backline looked extremely vulnerable as Marco Silva’s side moved the ball around well, while Richarlison was guilty of missing another fantastic chance when his miscued header drifted wide of the far post.
Antonio Conte’s introduction of Michy Batshuayi in place of Alvaro Morata proved decisive; the Belgium international was heavily criticised after a poor performance against Crystal Palace last time out, but his header was brilliantly guided past Heurelho Gomes to get the home side back on level terms. Watford still caused sporadic problems on the counter-attack, but Chelsea grew stronger as time wore on and grabbed the game’s all-important fifth goal through Cesar Azpilicueta, before Batshuayi added the cherry to the cake in the fifth minute of stoppage time.
In the end the scoreline made it look like a comfortable afternoon for Chelsea, but this was anything but; indeed, had Watford – and particularly Richarlison – been more clinical inside the penalty area, this encounter would have been out of the champions’ reach after an hour. Antonio Conte’s charges, not for the first time this term, were too passive without the ball and their defensive organisation was lax for long periods.
Nevertheless, Chelsea deserve credit for turning the game around in the second half. Conte’s side have not had the best start to the season and could easily have wilted as Watford continued to press, but they dug deep and hit back with three goals to turn a 2-1 deficit into a 4-2 victory. Yet regardless of the eventual outcome, there is still cause for concern at Stamford Bridge at present.