ANTONIO CONTE and his Chelsea team scraped a win… but this was the latest proof that all is not well with the champions.
But Conte will need to drastically change things in West London – and quickly.
Substitutes Michy Batshuayi and Cesar Azpilicueta helped avoid a fully-blown crisis by combining for three late goals.
Yet Chelsea were lucky to still be in the match and their confidence appears to be rock-bottom.
Everything was going fine when Pedro opened the scoring with an outstanding strike.
But Abdoulaye Doucoure and Roberto Pereyra scored either side of the break and Richarlison had a chance to put the game out of sight for Watford.
Buoyed by their brilliant start to the season, Watford started the brighter but had no answer to Chelsea’s opener in the 11th minute.
Watford were annoyed that the home side were given a corner as the ball appeared to come off Eden Hazard.
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From a quickly-taken set piece, the ball fell to Pedro whose spectacular first-time effort from 25 yards went in via the post with Hornets keeper Heurelho Gomes not even making an attempt to save.
It would have been impossible to keep the ball out.
It should have been 2-0 soon after but Cesc Fabregas attempted to be clever but instead made himself look really silly.
Alvaro Morata delivered a brilliant, defence-splitting pass to Fabregas who was clean through.
Inexplicably, he attempted a really difficult first-time chip over Gomes but he put it within the keeper’s reach.
Fabregas should either have used power or have dribbled around the exposed keeper.
INTERACTIVE STATS – CLICK on the categories to find out how the teams fared
Watford rediscovered their confidence and ended the first half playing well and in the second minute of injury time, Doucoure thumped the leveller.
Chelsea failed to deal properly with Jose Holebas’ long throw, David Luiz headed the ball against Tiemoue Bakayoko and it fell for French midfielder Doucoure who hammered the ball into the corner.
It was Doucoure’s fourth shot on target this season – and his fourth goal.
Richarlison missed a sitter from close range a few minutes into the second half but Chelsea did not heed the warning.
And Richarlison make up for that howler by delivering the killer pass to Pereyra who beats Courtois for 2-1.
Incredibly, Brazilian star Richarlison missed another sitter- this time a header – and he will have been cursing that miss.
Chelsea had rarely threatened but Pedro delivered an excellent cross and Batshuayi got in front of Miguel Britos and scored with a glancing header.
Azpilicueta’s late winner was hardly deserved, but there’s something to be said for a gritty win…
Batshuayi then grabbed his second to rub salt into Watford’s wound in the 95th-minute.
INTERACTIVE LINE-UPS – CLICK on a player’s number below to see their stats
SUPER SUB Five things we learnt as Chelsea beat Watford 4-2, including Michy Batshuayi’s best role…
FACTS, STATS, GOALS & LOLS
- Prior to kick-off, Chelsea were unbeaten in 12 league and cup matches against Watford (W9, D3).
- Watford’s only Premier League win in eight previous meetings with the Blues (D2, L5) was back in September 1999, as Alan Smart scored the winner.
- The Hornets’ last victory at Stamford Bridge was a 5-1 triumph on the final day of the 1985-86 top-flight season.
- Going into the game, Chelsea were facing losing three straight Premier League games for the first time in two years.
- Ahead of the game, Conte’s men had been dropped eight points at home so far this season; two more than in the whole of 2016-17.
- Prior to kick-off, Watford were enjoying their best-ever Premier League start, with 15 points from eight games.
- After his stunning strike, Pedro has now had a hand in more goals in all competitions in 2017 than any other Chelsea player (12 goals, 8 assists).
- Abdoulaye Doucoure has now scored with all four of his shots on target this season.
- Richarlison followed up an absolute sitter in the second-half… only to redeem himself seconds later with an assist for the second goal. The Brazilian then missed another clear-cut chance just moments later.
- Speaking of redemption, Batshuayi went a ways to making up for his Crystal Palace horror show last week by scoring Chelsea’s equaliser.
WHAT THEY SAID
Watford boss Marco Silva: “It is a really unfair result. It didn’t reflect the match and what we saw on the pitch.
“I’m proud of how we played, but of course I’m really frustrated. It showed our way and we need to continue in this way.”
Chelsea manager Antonio Conte: “The performance was a good performance because to concede the equaliser at the end of the first and then go down in first part of the second half, our confidence in that moment was low.
“But my players showed me that we have the attitude to fight and change the situation and get a different result. It was very important.
DREAM TEAM RATINGS
CHELSEA: Courtois 6, Rudiger 7, Luiz 8, Cahill 6, Azpilicueta 7, Bakayoko 7, Fabregas 7, Alonso 6 (Willian 68, 6), Pedro 8 (Zappacosta 86, 6), Hazard 8, Morata 6 (Batshuayi 61, 8).
Subs not used: Caballero, Musonda, Cristensen, Ampadu
WATFORD: Gomes 6, Kabasele 6, Mariappa 6 (Gray 90, 5), Britos 6, Femenia 6, Doucoure 7, Cleverley 6, Holebas 6, Pererya 6 (Carillo 65, 5), Richarlison 7, Deeney 7 (Watson 80, 5).
Subs not used: Karnezis, Janmaat, Wague, Capoue.
STAR MAN: EDEN HAZARD (Chelsea)