Chelsea quickly returned to winning ways on Wednesday as they earned an impressive 2-1 victory against Watford at Vicarage Road.
The first half took a while to get going, with both sides struggling to create any real chances. Fortunately, the occasion came to life minutes before half-time as Eden Hazard rounded Ben Foster to net his 100th Chelsea goal. However, the celebrations were short-lived, as Roberto Pereyra equalised just minutes after with a composed volley to level the scoreline at the break.
After another slow start, Hazard was tripped by Foster in the box and converted the ensuing penalty to restore Chelsea's advantage. Watford pushed for an equaliser but struggled to create anything significant, gifting Willian and Hazard plenty of chances to attack. However, they did not need a third as the full-time whistle blew to signal an impressive victory for the Blues.
Key Talking Point
Gerard Deulofeu's versatility has often worked against him this season. Javi Gracia has fielded the Spaniard as both a striker and a winger, often switching between Deulofeu and Isaac Success in attack. Gracia opted to pair Troy Deeney with Deulofeu against Chelsea, and the duo were sublime.
Thanks to their contrasting styles, Deeney and Deulofeu offered Watford a little bit of everything in attack. Deeney brought determination, physicality and leadership, whilst Deulofeu offered pace, dribbling and energy. The duo pressed high, creating problems for Kepa Arrizabalaga and Jorginho, and were unfortunate not to see any significant rewards from their work.
Neither forward managed to get on the score sheet, but they likely would have managed on another day. Gracia will undoubtedly have been impressed with their partnership, which could cement Deulofeu's place as a primary striker.
Starting XI: Foster (4); Femenia (6), Kabasele (N/A), Cathcart (6), Holebas (6); Sema (6), Doucoure (6), Capoue (7), Pereyra (6); Deulofeu (6), Deeney (7).
Substitutes: Mariappa (6), Quina (6), Success (6).
STAR MAN - Troy Deeney
Troy Deeney has forged a reputation as a physical striker who loves to battle with opposing defenders, and he did exactly that against Chelsea.
The 30-year-old did all he could to trouble David Luiz and Antonio Rudiger, gifting the creative players around him space and time to shine. He chased down lost causes and often created danger out of nothing. His influence may have faded in the second half, but he made a point of leading by example.
Deeney is a real fan favourite at Watford, and fans jumped on Twitter to shower the striker with praise as a result of his solid display.
WORST PLAYER - Ben Foster
The Watford shot stopper will be keen to move on from his poor performance against Chelsea. Foster struggled with his distribution, often inviting pressure from Chelsea's dynamic forwards, and his poor decision-making ultimately gifted Hazard a cheap penalty, which proved to be a decisive moment in the match.
Key Talking Point
Chelsea's goalscoring woes have been widely discussed this season. With both Alvaro Morata and Olivier Giroud misfiring, Maurizio Sarri again opted to field Hazard as a 'false nine'. The lack of a direct striker was evident at times, but Hazard still managed to excel.
Picking the ball up deep, Hazard showcased his sublime dribbling abilities as the likes of Willian and Callum Hudson-Odoi moved centrally to help distract defenders. He tormented Watford's defenders, and his speed and technical ability ultimately gifted him two goals, taking his Chelsea tally to 101.
That's three goals and three assists in four games for the Belgian since he adopted this central role. It may have its limitations, but this tactic is certainly proving to be effective.
Starting XI: Arrizabalaga (5); Azpilicueta (6), Luiz (6), Rudiger (7), Alonso (5); Jorginho (5), Kovacic (5), Kante (6); Pedro (6), Hazard (8), Willian (6).
Substitutes: Hudson-Odoi (6), Barkley, Emerson
STAR MAN - Eden Hazard
Once again, Chelsea's talisman was their saviour. The Belgian was superb at times, using his direct running to create problem after problem for the helpless Watford defenders. The Hornets, like so many before them, had to resort to fouling Hazard - a sign that they were not confident they could contain him.
He showcased impressive composure to round Foster for his first goal, and he was brave to lure Foster into giving away the penalty for his second goal. Whether in a central role or as a winger, Hazard knows how to score goals.
It was a typically brilliant display from Hazard, and Chelsea fans took to Twitter to express their delight.
Hazard is a creative machine— َ (@HazardEdition) December 26, 2018
Eden Hazard has actually been gifting opportunities, man should have a brace of assists as well. What performance— Mod (@CFCMod_) December 26, 2018
WORST PLAYER - Marcos Alonso
Marcos Alonso is certainly not enjoying his finest period as a Chelsea player. The Spaniard been criticised for his work rate and defensive positioning in recent weeks, and he found himself caught too high up the pitch on several occasions against Watford. Even in attack, Alonso was wasteful as he struggled to make a positive impact at either end of the field.
Watford will be keen to return to winning ways when they welcome Newcastle United to Vicarage Road on Saturday.