Eden Hazard scores twice to eclipse 100 Chelsea goals, lead Blues past Watford
LONDON -- Eden Hazard broke the 100-goal barrier for Chelsea with a pair of goals as Maurizio Sarri's men solidified their grip on fourth place in the Premier League with a battling victory over a spirited Watford at Vicarage Road.
Sarri got the response he wanted from the same starting XI that suffered defeat against Leicester City, both from the beginning and once Roberto Pereyra equalised on the stroke of half-time. Eden Hazard also continued his rich recent vein of scoring, and Chelsea's defence stood up reasonably well to pressure.
Pedro's suspected hamstring injury further thins Sarri's wing options, and there were signs here that he does not yet fully trust Callum Hudson-Odoi despite throwing him on at Vicarage Road. Chelsea's attacking play was also slow, stagnant and predictable for long spells.
Manager rating out of 10
7 -- Sarri made a bold call by naming an unchanged team and was ultimately validated, with Hazard growing in influence in the false nine role. He also gained plenty of goodwill by giving Hudson-Odoi a chance when Pedro got injured -- goodwill he promptly lost again by substituting him in the final minutes.
Player ratings (1-10; 10=best. Players introduced after 70 minutes get no rating)
GK Kepa Arrizabalaga, 7 -- Made an almighty mistake in the first half when his loose pass presented the ball to Gerard Deulofeu, only for the Spaniard to let him off the hook with a misguided back-heel. Was otherwise solid, distributing well under pressure. Was not at fault for Pereyra's equaliser.
DF Cesar Azpilicueta, 7 -- Unsurprisingly did not give Pereyra much from open play, and also set up one glorious first-half chance for Hazard with an inviting low cross. The rest of his deliveries from the right were wayward, though there weren't exactly many of them. A solid enough defensive night.
DF Antonio Rudiger, 7 -- Covered well to slow down Deulofeu after the Spaniard had pounced on a Jorginho mistake, and generally coped with the physical threat of Troy Deeney. Even found himself in the Watford box as Chelsea threatened a third in the final minutes, but his defensive contribution stood out.
DF David Luiz, 7 -- Avoided fouling Deulofeu in a couple of dangerous situations as the Spaniard darted into the box, and also got back to block a Deeney shot after Jorginho had given the ball away on the halfway line. There weren't many defence-splitting passes, but he did his primary job.
DF Marcos Alonso, 6 -- Still looks a shell of the man who lit up the Premier League in the opening weeks, not threatening the goal from open play and failing to pick out teammates with his crosses. His defensive limitations also influenced Sarri's decision to bring on Emerson to shield him late on.
MF Mateo Kovacic, 8 -- His best performance for several weeks. Brought all of the tidy passing and work rate he generally offers but there was also a substantial end product. His interception and pass created the opener for Hazard at a time when Chelsea were struggling to create anything of note.
MF Jorginho, 7 -- The system stands or falls on his shoulders, and his best moments tempted Watford into misguided pressing and got his team on the front foot. Much of his time was spent shouting at teammates to move for him, but his beautiful scooped pass enabled Hazard to win the penalty.
MF N'Golo Kante, 7 -- He combines his usual relentless running with good instincts about when to dart into the final third, but he continues to look a jarring presence once he gets there. Kicked air as he attempted to latch onto a Luiz pass, then fired wide when played through by Hazard.
FW Willian, 6 -- His direct running caused Watford problems, but his defensive work rate waxes and wanes and he had a sulky air on the pitch at times. Unlucky not to put the game away when one low shot flashed wide of Foster's post from a Hazard pass, then the Watford goalkeeper almost fumbled another of his efforts in.
FW Eden Hazard, 8 -- Started the night on 99 goals for Chelsea, ended it on 101. The two he scored secured the points, after he had started slowly, missing a sitter in the first half. Worried the home defence wherever he drifted and also created a good chance for Willian.
FW Pedro, 6 -- Flashed one left-footed shot just wide of Foster's post with the Watford goalkeeper rooted, but that was pretty much the extent of his attacking threat. Forced off with what looked like an injury to his left hamstring shortly before half-time.
FW Callum Hudson-Odoi, 6 -- A surprise presence on the bench instead of Ruben Loftus-Cheek, he was thrown into action unexpectedly by Pedro's injury and understandably looked a little passive. The boos from the Chelsea fans when Sarri subbed him off again underline how much people want him to succeed.
MF Ross Barkley, N/R -- On in place of Kovacic for the final 10 minutes, he was broadly OK on the ball as Chelsea protected their lead.
MF Emerson Palmieri, N/R -- Brought on for Hudson-Odoi to shore up Chelsea's left flank and did his job.