Watford 1-2 Chelsea
A much-changed Chelsea weathered the storm to navigate their way past a tricky Watford side and stay top of the Premier League with a 2-1 win at Vicarage Road.
Play was halted for half an hour early in the first half for a medical emergency in the stands, with officials being alerted to the situation by players. Watford later confirmed a fan was stable after suffering a cardiac arrest.
Chelsea took the lead just before the half-hour mark as two of their six changes combined, Mason Mount converting at close range from an unselfish assist by Kai Havertz.
But Claudio Ranieri’s Watford caused his old side headaches throughout, deservedly levelling through Emmanuel Dennis’ deflected effort off Antonio Rudiger (43).
Chelsea’s summer signing Saul Niguez was hooked at half-time again – he was also brought off at the break in his only other Premier League start in September against Aston Villa – but after keeping Watford out for most of the second half, the leaders retook the lead through sub Hakim Ziyech’s finish from a Mount centre (72).
The defeat leaves Watford 17th, three points above the drop zone.
Watford dominated the first 10 minutes – Chelsea had just two touches in the opposition half in the early stages – and came close twice; first, Trevoh Chalobah blocked superbly from Joao Pedro’s low drive, before Edouard Mendy did well to stop a second Pedro effort, parrying away to his right.
But on 13 minutes, referee David Coote brought both sets of players off the pitch after being alerted to a medical emergency in the Graham Taylor Stand. The game was halted for a total of 30 minutes, and Watford later confirmed a fan had been stabilised having suffered a cardiac arrest.
As play resumed after a five-minute warm-up, Chelsea finally settled and struck the post through Mount at an acute angle, before Watford were left to rue not making more of their early dominance as the visitors carved them open.
Marcos Alonso expertly took down Rudiger’s ball over the top, cutting it back for Havertz, and the German laid it on a plate for Mount to fire into the bottom corner from close range, his first Premier League away goal since March.
But Watford recovered quickly and continued to trouble Chelsea, levelling through the bright Dennis for his sixth goal in the Nigerian’s debut Premier League season. As Ruben Loftus-Cheek cheaply lost out in midfield to Moussa Sissoko, Dennis was found and struck low towards the bottom corner, the ball helped into the net via a slight deflection off Rudiger. It was no less than Watford deserved.
The first-half action did not end there as Dennis returned the favour and slipped Sissoko in behind the line of defence, but he should have done better as Mendy got down to save well.
Chelsea felt aggrieved just before the break as William Troost-Ekong piled in on Mount, but was only booked by Coote, before Thiago Silva replaced Saul in an attempt to shore things up for Chelsea at half-time.
It barely worked as Watford created a fine chance to take the lead – Pedro played in Tom Cleverley, Mendy boldly raced outside his box, but was able to block without using his hands – prompting Thomas Tuchel to attempt to swing things again with an attacking sub, bringing on Romelu Lukaku for Cesar Azpilicueta with 20 minutes left.
But it was fellow sub Ziyech who put them ahead against the run of play, finishing high into the net from 12 yards from Mount’s cut back from the left flank. Watford goalkeeper Daniel Bachmann, who got a touch to the shot, could have done better.
Ziyech nearly scored another late on, seeing his fierce header from Havertz’s cross stopped by Bachmann, and Chelsea finally found some form of solidity at the back to keep Watford at bay for the remaining minutes.
It was not pretty from Chelsea – Watford made their defence look anything but the best in the Premier League for large periods – but if Sunday’s draw against Man Utd was a case of two points dropped, this was a case of two fortuitously gained.