Blues blunder helps Hornets
Written By: Robert Halter
Boxing Day 2015 marked the first game in charge of Chelsea for interim manager, Guus Hiddink since overseeing the Blues 2009 FA Cup Final victory over Everton, and he was greeted by one of his former Valencia players, Quique Sanchez Flores, who was in the opposing Watford dug out. In the third minute, a cushioned header by Diego Costa flew over the upright from a ball across by Pedro, as his first attempt cannoned back off Miguel Britos. Six minutes later, after a handball by Etienne Capoue, it was backs to the wall for the Hornets, as Willian’s free kick looped off Almen Abdi, and past the top of the far post. On seventeen minutes, a whipped in cross by Jose Holebas, was turned behind by Gary Cahill, and from Ben Watson’s resulting corner, as the ball was punched clear by Thibaut Courtois, a pass from Jose Manuel Jurado, opened up the Blues defence, but the Golden Boys striker, Odion Ighalo, miss timed his strike. Within a minute, a brave stop by Heurelho Gomes, blocked out Costa, who had been played through by Oscar. Midway through the first half, Ighalo guided a header wide from Watson’s corner, after failing to find the right connection. In the twenty sixth minute, Ighalo then fired a left footed shot wide to the left of the target from an assist by Jurado. Then in the next minute, Abdi’s right footed boot struck an effort high and wide, after a stray pass from Cesc Fabregas, off a throw in by Branislav Ivanovic. The breakthrough goal arrived on thirty one minutes, when from a Willian corner, the ball was won by Blues captain, John Terry, and on the volley, Costa riffled the ball into the left side of the net. In the thirty eighth minute, the Blues threatened again as Fabregas supplied Ivanovic, whose low cross was turned over the upright by Oscar. But two minutes later, after Cahill manhandled Ighalo, from the resulting free kick by Jurado, the ball deflected off the Blues wall and narrowly wide of the right post. However, from Watson’s corner a blatant handball by Nemanja Matic, resulted in referee, Andre Marriner, awarding the Hornets a spot kick, and club captain, Troy Deeney, sent Courtois the wrong way, with a low struck penalty kick, in the forty first minute. Just before the break, a low first time cross by Pedro on the left, was too far over for the advancing Costa. After half time, John Obi Mikel replaced Fabregas as the second half resumed. Four minutes into the re-start, the Blues had a penalty appeal turned down as Willian’s corner struck high up on the arm of Miguel Britos. In a blink of an eye, Watford were a fraction away from taking the lead, with a magnificent save to turn away Capoue’s fierce strike, from a ball over by Jose Holebas, in the fifty fifth minute. But the Hornets were not to be denied, when Jurado drove forward and a well timed strike by Ighalo, deflected off Cahill before leaving Courtois flat footed, as the ball looped into the net, less than a minute later. Another Blues penalty appeal was waved away after a wrestling match between Britos and Oscar, in the fifty ninth minute. Five minutes later, a ball over by Costa was met with a low volley by Willian that Gomes collected at his near post. But a minute later, Willian returned the favour with a side splitting pass, and Costa went through to tuck the ball past Gomes, into the far corner. On sixty seven minutes, Oscar found Costa, but this time, Gomes averted the danger while rooted to the floor. Watford then changed Abdi with Valon Behrami before Ikechi Anya replaced Jurado and the Blues soon brought on Eden Hazard for Pedro. In seventy six minutes, Willian bent a free kick over the wall, after being fouled by Watson. At the third time of asking, Chelsea were awarded a penalty for a rash challenge by Behrami on Hazard which was squandered by Oscar, as he slipped and ballooned the ball over the bar in the eightieth minute. At the end, Denney made way for Adlene Guedioura and in stoppage time, Mikel’s low strike spun wide from an assist by Willian as the Hornets held on for an away point as Chelsea were left frustrated by only drawing.