Chelsea took a huge step towards Champions League qualification by completing a 3-0 victory over Watford at Stamford Bridge on Sunday. After struggling in the opening period, Chelsea moved through the gears in the second half to seal a comfortable win over Watford. Tottenham’s 1-0 loss to Bournemouth on Saturday opened the door for Chelsea to go third in the Premier League and they took advantage courtesy of goals from Ruben Loftus-Cheek, David Luiz and Gonzalo Higuain.
The Blues were under pressure for much of the first half and lost midfield enforcer N’Golo Kante to a muscle injury after 10 minutes, making the France international a doubt for their Europa League semi-final, second leg against Eintracht Frankfurt on Thursday. The recalled Eden Hazard assisted goals for Kante’s replacement Loftus-Cheek and David Luiz in the space of three second-half minutes, before Gonzalo Higuain rounded off the scoring as Chelsea edged closer to a top-four finish.
Watford started on the front foot and Troy Deeney had a header pushed onto the post by Kepa Arrizabalaga in the eighth minute, while Kante’s injury gave the Blues more cause for concern. Chelsea were a different side after the break and moved ahead in the 48th minute when Hazard picked out Loftus-Cheek to head home. David Luiz evaded Adrian Mariappa to nod another Hazard delivery past Ben Foster as the Blues turned the game on its head.
Foster produced a pair of strong saves to keep Pedro and Higuain at bay, but he was helpless when the duo combined and the on-loan Juventus striker dinked in a fine finish. Watford were denied a consolation in bizarre fashion when Roberto Pereyra’s free-kick hit the post and substitute Isaac Success headed in the rebound off an offside Andre Gray. Club captain Gary Cahill was sent on to a rapturous ovation in the 89th minute for a final appearance at Stamford Bridge before departing when his contract expires at the end of the season.
After the game, goal scorer David Luiz and Maurizio Sarri reacts to the resounding victory and the top four battle.
Chelsea defender David Luiz, speaking to the Premier League: “It was good for us, we got our opportunity, we scored and then we killed the game.
“The schedule is tough, but when you have fantastic players, more than just 11, we can rotate and have the same quality. We have that. It’s tough but it’s tough for everybody. “We did well to get the three points but we have to still fight until the end.”
Chelsea boss Maurizio Sarri, speaking to BBC Match of the Day: “At the beginning we were tired physically and mentally. Then in the second half they lowered the intensity and we got in control of the match. It was very diffident in the first half and we were lucky because we scored two goals in three minutes and then after the second goal we were able to play good football.
“Ruben Loftus-Cheek is not just for me but for English football. He is improving match by match he can become one of the best midfielders in Europe, not only in England. He has very great potential and in the next season he will be for sure one of the best midfielders, not only in England. “I don’t know about Gonzalo Higuain’s future, you have to ask the club. But for a striker it is not easy to play here, when you’re used to playing in Spain and Italy. It’s not easy to adapt to this competition because it’s different physically. If he’s staying then we can do very well in the next season.
“We don’t know about Champions League, we have to wait for Arsenal but probably we have to go to our last match to try to win. We have to fight until the last minute of the last match. “Gary Cahill is very important in the dressing room, very professional, he played only five or six matches this season but in training he was really very important for us. It was right to put him on the pitch for the last minutes.”
Here is highlights of the game: