Tale of two halves as Chelsea move up to third

Chelsea striker Gonzalo Higuain watches his shot sail over Watford goalkeeper Ben Foster at Stamford Bridge yesterday, as he completes his team's 3-0 win which sends the Blues into third place ahead of Tottenham. PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE
Chelsea striker Gonzalo Higuain watches his shot sail over Watford goalkeeper Ben Foster at Stamford Bridge yesterday, as he completes his team's 3-0 win which sends the Blues into third place ahead of Tottenham.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

ENGLISH PREMIER LEAGUE

Chelsea 3 

Watford 0

LONDON • This encapsulated Chelsea's bizarre campaign of extremes.

There had been heckles from the home support as the players went into the interval with the hosts fortunate still to be level, all the festering doubts over Maurizio Sarri's stewardship exposed yet again, only for those jeers to be choked within the opening few minutes of the restart by a taunting of Tottenham.

Maurizio Sarri's team ended the afternoon in third place, having leapfrogged Spurs, and one win from Champions League qualification.

The doubts will resurface while the Blues' displays veer from the sublime to the ridiculous so regularly, but Chelsea are still likely to achieve their objective of a return to Europe's elite competition.

Watford, such a dominant force through a one-sided opening period, were dismissed in those frantic exchanges at the start of the second half with a difficult occasion suddenly transformed into something of a breeze.

Sarri even threw on Gary Cahill for a first appearance since November for the final few minutes, granting the club captain the send-off he deserves.

That helped ensure the post-match lap of appreciation was conducted in a more celebratory mood than what had seemed unlikely when Watford were running rings round the home side.

For once, Sarri's half-time team talk had instigated an immediate upturn with Eden Hazard, previously peripheral, revived and Ruben Loftus-Cheek injecting urgency to Chelsea's approach.

The England midfielder had headed the hosts ahead, reaching Hazard's gloriously clipped cross to power his effort beyond Ben Foster. Within minutes, David Luiz sprinted late into the box to meet Hazard's corner and effectively complete the victory. Even Gonzalo Higuain, so desperately ponderous in his play up to the interval, chipped in an exquisite third.

Higuain, Olivier Giroud and Pedro might have added further plunder as a side who had initially appeared so deflated tore into the FA Cup finalists with relish.

There is no fathoming Chelsea's form at present. They are wildly unpredictable but, according to the Premier League table, the third best team in the country at present.

THE GUARDIAN

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 06, 2019, with the headline 'Tale of two halves as Chelsea move up to third'. Print Edition | Subscribe