Cesc Fabregas came off the bench to score a 88th-minute winner for newly-crowned champions Chelsea against Watford in a dramatic English Premier League fixture which finished 4-3 in the Blues’ favour on Monday night at Stamford Bridge.
After beating West Bromwich Albion on Friday, Chelsea was assured of the league title. Manager Antonio Conte made sweeping changes to his line-up against Walter Mazzarri’s hornets. An incredible nine players were rested from the team that started at the Hawthorns, with Cesar Azpilcueta and Eden Hazard the only players to retain their spots.
John Terry, leaving the club in the summer, was given a rare start and the club captain scored the opener in the 22nd minute, reacting first inside the box after Willian’s corner had fallen near him. His joy soon turned to despair as within two minutes he gifted Watford an equaliser. His weak back header was pounced upon by Etienne Capoue, who got there before a despairing Asmir Begovic to get the Hornets back in the tie.
Chelsea responded to take the lead again and it was Mr Dependable aka Azpilcueta who finished well nine minutes before half-time after Hazard’s corner had been headed into his path on the edge of the box. The Spanish full-back is the only Chelsea player to have played all 37 league games this season and for good measure, he has been on the pitch for 90 minutes in every single match as well!
Chelsea added to their lead in the 49th minute when Nathan Ake laid it on a plate for Michy Batshuayi to tap-in from inside six yards as they sought to win their 29th league game of their title-winning season.
Watford remained unfazed despite conceding a goal early in the second period and responded with what turned out to be the goal of the game. Fullback Daryl Janmaat went on a weaving run, turning Ake inside-out before deftly finishing past Begovic to reduce the deficit.
Mazzarri sent on Stefano Okaka and the Italian striker had an almost-instant impact, bundling in an equaliser in the 74th minute from inside the box after Tom Cleverley’s cross had come off a Chelsea defender and was bouncing invitingly in front of him.
Considering Chelsea had already won the league, Conte could have been forgiven for settling for the draw, but instead he threw on Pedro and Fabregas to find the winner. Willian cut back for the Spaniard, who arrived at the edge of the box at the right time to finesse a shot past Heurelho Gomes.
With the result, the Blues moved up to the 90-point mark at the top of the league table, with one game to go while Watford remained in 16th on 40 points.