Chelsea 3-0 Watford
Chelsea jumped up to third place in the Premier League with a 3-0 win over Watford at Stamford Bridge.
The Blues came into the game looking to cement their place in the Champions League qualification places, but were without a win in their last three league games.
The Hornets had not won in two as they could be forgiven if their minds had started to wander towards the FA Cup final against Manchester City later this month.
However, it was the Hornets who looked the more likely to score as they dominated large spells of the first half which resulted in the Blues being booed off at the interval when they were fortunate to go in on level terms.
Chelsea gave the perfect response with two goals in three minutes from Ruben Loftus-Cheek and David Luiz early in the second half to put Maurizio Sarri’s side in control.
Gonzalo Higuain put the icing on the cake with a third to give the scoreline a flattering look as the Blues move above Tottenham into third place – five points clear of fifth-placed Arsenal who host Brighton later on Sunday.
Watford stay down in mid-table on 50 points.
Chelsea made four changes to the XI from Thursday’s Europa League semi-final first leg clash with Eintracht Frankfurt with Eden Hazard back in the side, along with Marcos Alonso, Mateo Kovacic and Higuaín.
Former Chelsea midfielder Nathaniel Chalobah was back in the Watford XI, along with striker and skipper Troy Deeney following his recent suspension.
Watford came out of the blocks quickly and almost went ahead in the sixth minute when Gerard Deulofeu came in from the left and hit a lovely 25-yard effort which whistled just wide of Kepa Arrizabalaga’s upright.
Two minutes later, Kepa produced a magnificent one-handed save to claw a looping Deeney header away from the top corner of his goal, before Will Hughes put the rebound over the top.
Chelsea were then hit by the loss of N’Golo Kante to an injury as he was forced to limp off and be replaced by Ruben Loftus-Cheek in the 10th minute.
Watford goalkeeper Ben Foster was called into action for the first time on 15 minutes when he had to palm the ball away to safety when Jorginho looked to lob him from the edge of the box.
But it was the visitors who continued to look the more likely to open the scoring with Deulofeu somehow scuffing an effort wide in a good position, before Jose Holebas smashed one just over on 20 minutes.
Alonso did well to get a vital foot in which prevented Abdoulaye Doucoure from getting a clean strike at goal from 12 yards as Watford kept up their good pressure in the opening 25 minutes.
Chelsea finally upped their game with Luiz having a penalty shout ignored when he went to ground under a challenge from Kiko Femenia on the half-hour and Pedro then hit a curling effort just wide of Foster’s upright.
Having been jeered by their own fans going off at half-time, Chelsea responded positively in the second half with two quick goals to put themselves firmly in control.
On 48 minutes, Foster pulled off a good save to deny Hazard, but from the subsequent short corner Loftus-Cheek stole in to head home from close range.
And three minutes later, the Hornets’ defence went to sleep from another Hazard corner and that allowed Luiz all the time in the world to guide a thumping header past Foster.
Watford almost got a foothold back into the game on 56 minutes when Deulofeu again came in from the left channel and lashed a fierce strike which beat Kepa but skimmed the outside of the far post.
Back came Chelsea with Hazard teeing up Pedro and his low strike was impressively palmed away by Foster, before Loftus-Cheek bundled the rebound just wide.
Foster was again called into action just after the hour with a fine save to divert Higuain’s half-volley over his own crossbar.
Watford continued to press for a route back into the contest, but the three points were sealed in the 75th minute when Higuain got in behind Craig Cathcart to pick up Pedro’s ball into the box and then dinked his effort over Foster to make it 3-0.
The visitors had a goal disallowed on 84 minutes when Roberto Pereyra’s free-kick came back off the post to Isaac Success whose header flicked off Andre Gray in an offside position on its way into the net.
Olivier Giroud should have added a fourth in the latter stages but the substitute twice failed to convert after being teed up by Hazard.