Cesc Fabregas display for Chelsea at Watford delights Antonio Conte
LONDON -- Antonio Conte praised Cesc Fabregas for staking his claim to a place in his starting XI with an inspired performance from the substitutes' bench as Chelsea came from behind to beat Watford 2-1 at Vicarage Road.
Watford stifled Chelsea for much of Saturday's match and looked good for three points when Etienne Capoue superbly lashed them into the lead on 55 minutes, but the introductions of Fabregas and summer signing Michy Batshuayi turned the tide for Conte.
Batshuayi tapped in his first Premier League goal in the 80th minute after Heurelho Gomes parried Eden Hazard's low shot back into danger, before a sublime Fabregas through ball released Diego Costa to race clear of the Watford defence and slot in the winner a minute from time.
Fabregas' future has been the subject of much speculation after Conte elected to pick Oscar ahead of him against West Ham and Watford, but his introduction in place of Nemanja Matic was greeted by a huge cheer from the travelling Chelsea supporters, and after the match Conte admitted that the Spaniard's performance has given him a decision to make for the matches to come.
"We all know Cesc is a great player with a great technique and a good pass," Conte said. "I made the substitution because in that moment I wanted more quality and I saw that Watford were thinking only to defend their goal.
"But I'm pleased for his attitude because Cesc is working very hard during the training sessions to show me that he deserves to play. I want to see this from all the players -- show me they deserve to start the game.
"If I see this attitude and commitment I'm a very happy manager, because when you have many players that think for the team and not themselves it's important. I see in this situation happening in Chelsea and it's good."
Chelsea have now won both of their first two Premier League matches with goals in the last five minutes, and Conte believes the gruelling regime of double training sessions he implemented on his arrival at Cobham is already paying dividends.
"I think that the work always pays," he added. "I know we are working very hard and we'll continue to work very hard. Normally these wins are very important to improve, to trust in the work, to rise the confidence because after the season like last year it's not easy to start to win two games and to start in a good way."
Asked about the impact of his substitutions in general, Conte added: "It was the same against West Ham. This is normal because when you push for 70 minutes, usually the opponent pays for the effort.
"When the new players come on there is a great impact. I'm pleased for [Victor] Moses, for Cesc, for Batshuayi, because the impact was very good."
Watford manager Walter Mazzarri, speaking to the media via a translator, insisted he was proud of his team's performance, and attributed Chelsea's comeback to fatigue and mistakes from his players.
"Against a big team like Chelsea we worked very hard," he said. "In the first half we worked hard with the pressing but unfortunately with the time passing the players got tired.
"I'm very happy with everything, especially how we played. We played much better than last week -- last week we played for 20 minutes how I wanted. This week we played 70.
"Like we say in Italy, we complicated our lives. Both goals were our mistakes. We weren't focused. We have to improve in keeping the ball, especially because in those situations we had the opportunity to play in a more simple way.
"I think we can keep our heads high. We are all very proud of the way we played. But when you play so well and you don't manage to get any points it leaves you not very happy, so tonight I'm not going to sleep very well."
Liam is ESPN FC's Chelsea correspondent. Follow him on Twitter: @Liam_Twomey.