Eden Hazard scored twice as Chelsea gained a hard-fought win at Watford to reclaim fourth place in the Premier League table.
The Belgian opened the scoring when he collected Mateo Kovacic’s pass, took the ball around goalkeeper Ben Foster and calmly finished for his 100th Blues goal.
Chelsea’s lead only lasted two minutes until Roberto Pereyra volleyed past Kepa Arrizabalaga from the edge of the 18-yard box.
But Hazard grabbed his second of the match in the second half when he converted a penalty after Foster had bundled him over.
Chelsea had dropped to fifth when Arsenal drew at Brighton earlier on Wednesday, but this result takes Maurizio Sarri’s side back to fourth, 11 points behind leaders Liverpool.
It was a return to winning ways for the Blues after they suffered a surprise 1-0 loss at home to Leicester City on Saturday.
Landmark moment for Hazard
Hazard, who joined Chelsea for £32m from Lille in June 2012, became only the 10th man to reach 100 goals in all competitions for the club when he put the visitors ahead in the first minute of injury time at the end of the first half.
It came after Watford’s Etienne Capoue sloppily gave the ball away near the halfway line. That enabled Kovacic to break forward before releasing Hazard, and the Belgium international did well to go around Foster and score his 10th Premier League goal of the season.
After Watford had equalised, Hazard’s 101st club goal came in the 58th minute as he sent Foster the wrong way from the spot after the former England goalkeeper bundled him over in the penalty area.
Hazard’s quality proved to be the difference as Sarri again opted to use the two-time Premier League title winner as a ‘false nine’, with Alvaro Morata injured and Olivier Giroud, who has only scored one Premier League goal in 15 appearances in 2018-19, among the substitutes.
Chelsea had further opportunities as N’Golo Kante raced onto Hazard’s through ball but could only drag his effort wide. Willian also was unlucky not to add a third for the visitors, when his 20-yard strike rebounded off the outside of the post.
The only negatives for Chelsea were a hamstring injury for Pedro with the man who replaced him, 18-year-old Callum Hudson-Odoi, also going off late on.
|Chelsea’s record goalscorers (all competitions)|
|1. Frank Lampard||211||2. Bobby Tambling||202|
|3. Kerry Dixon||193||4. Didier Drogba||164|
|=5. Roy Bentley||150||=5. Peter Osgood||150|
|7. Jimmy Greaves||132||8. George Mills||125|
|9. George Hilsdon||108||10. Eden Hazard||101|
Watford’s unbeaten run ends
Watford will feel they had enough chances to get something from the match at Vicarage Road as they suffered their first loss in four Premier League matches.
They had a chance after only nine minutes when Chelsea goalkeeper Kepa Arrizabalaga gifted a clearance to Gerard Deulofeu, but the Spaniard squandered the opportunity with a misplaced backheel that did not find team-mate Troy Deeney.
Abdoulaye Doucoure had a shot blocked by Jorginho and also fired a second attempt over the bar, before Deeney was denied by an excellent David Luiz challenge.
Hazard put the visitors ahead, but they were soon pegged back as Pereyra spectacularly volleyed in from Jose Holebas’s cross.
When it was still 1-1, Watford thought they should have had a penalty as Luiz collided with Deulofeu. Referee Martin Atkinson was not interested – but gave Chelsea a spot-kick of their own six minutes later, which Hazard converted.
The Hornets still had chances to secure a point, but Deeney shot over from eight yards out before keeper Foster joined the attack in injury time and attempted a long-range overhead kick, but failed to threaten Arrizabalaga’s goal.
Watford had started the day seventh, but wins for Leicester and Everton, against Manchester City and Burnley respectively, have dropped Javi Gracia’s team down to ninth.
After the match, Gracia confirmed that defender Christian Kabasele had been taken to hospital following a sickening injury after only nine minutes, when he slid into a post as he tried to stop Willian from scoring.
Kabasele continued after extensive treatment but only lasted a few more minutes before he was substituted, and was then carried down the tunnel on a stretcher.
Chelsea’s fine Boxing Day record – the stats
- Chelsea have only lost one of their seven Premier League games against opponents that started the day in the top 10 this season (won three, drew three), with that lone defeat coming against Spurs in November (1-3 at Wembley).
- After losing just three of their first 13 home league games under Javi Gracia (won eight, drew two), Watford have since lost three of their last four (won one).
- Chelsea are unbeaten in their last 14 Premier League games played on Boxing Day (won nine, drew five), since a 4-2 loss at Charlton in 2003-04.
- Only Brighton (five) have conceded more penalties than Watford (four) in the Premier League this season, with three of those being converted.
- Watford midfielder Roberto Pereyra has scored three goals in three Premier League appearances against Chelsea – more than against any other opponent in the competition.
- There were just 137 seconds between Chelsea opening the scoring and Watford equalising through Roberto Pereyra.
Man of the match – Eden Hazard (Chelsea)
‘I want to be a Chelsea legend’ – what they said
Watford manager Javi Gracia told Sky Sports: “I think we competed very well. I think we started the second half well by pressing high, but in that moment if you make a mistake they can score a second goal. Maybe after we scored our goal, in that moment we were playing better but we conceded the second.
“We know they are a very good team and maybe if there was another decision when we were playing and Gerard Deulofeu goes into the box, maybe it could have been different. I think it was a penalty.”
On the Watford goal: “We try to practice different corner kicks and I am happy for the goal but today it was not enough. We will try to improve and be better.
On Christian Kabasele: “At this moment I do not know anything because he is not with us, he is in the hospital.”
Chelsea manager Maurizio Sarri told BBC Sport: “Maybe Saturday in the first half we played with more quality than today. We had more attention and our determination continued for 90 minutes. We could have won with another result because in the last 20-25 minutes we missed opportunities. At the end of the match, we did very well, especially mentally.
“Eden Hazard can play in every position. He played very well with two goals and could have had two or three assists. He can play with team-mates very well.
“We don’t know how much Pedro is injured, we will evaluate tomorrow. That is the same problem with Callum Hudson-Odoi. He had a little injury a few days ago, yesterday it was good and he managed 50-55 minutes. We thought it was better to substitute him.
“We have to try to stay close to the top four. The target this season could only be to stay close and to enter into the Champions League. Liverpool are playing really well especially with the continuity to win the Premier League.”
Chelsea forward Eden Hazard told Sky Sports: “It means a lot, especially because we won today. To score 101 goals with this amazing club is something I will never forget but now the fans, staff and players want more.
“I want to score more for this club and then try to be a legend like Frank Lampard, Didier Drogba and John Terry.”
On his position up front: “I can even play at centre-back. My target is to score goals and to try and win the game, as a winger or a striker. I missed a couple of chances today, especially in the first half, but I scored two so it’s important to keep focus.
“We showed great character against Man City after defeat by Wolves, and today we did the same thing after a defeat by Leicester. When we fight together we are a top team.”
Watford play at home against Newcastle on 29 December and are then away at Bournemouth on 2 January. Chelsea are at Crystal Palace on 30 December before entertaining Southampton on 2 January.
- 26FosterBooked at 58mins
- 27KabaseleSubstituted forMariappaat 16′minutes
- 12SemaSubstituted forQuinaat 67′minutes
- 7DeulofeuSubstituted forSuccessat 82′minutes
- 30David Luiz
- 17KovacicSubstituted forBarkleyat 80′minutes
- 11PedroSubstituted forHudson-Odoiat 43′minutesSubstituted forEmersonat 85′minutes
- 10E Hazard
- Martin Atkinson
- Shots on Target
Match ends, Watford 1, Chelsea 2.
Second Half ends, Watford 1, Chelsea 2.
Attempt saved. Eden Hazard (Chelsea) left footed shot from a difficult angle on the left is saved in the bottom right corner. Assisted by Willian.
N’Golo Kanté (Chelsea) wins a free kick in the attacking half.
Foul by Abdoulaye Doucouré (Watford).
Attempt missed. Ben Foster (Watford) left footed shot from outside the box misses to the right. Assisted by Domingos Quina following a corner.
Attempt missed. Isaac Success (Watford) right footed shot from the centre of the box misses to the right following a corner.
Attempt missed. Adrian Mariappa (Watford) header from the centre of the box misses to the left. Assisted by José Holebas with a cross following a corner.
Corner, Watford. Conceded by N’Golo Kanté.
Ross Barkley (Chelsea) wins a free kick on the left wing.
Foul by Domingos Quina (Watford).
Attempt blocked. Antonio Rüdiger (Chelsea) header from the centre of the box is blocked. Assisted by Willian.
Corner, Chelsea. Conceded by Ben Foster.
Attempt saved. Willian (Chelsea) right footed shot from the centre of the box is saved in the bottom right corner. Assisted by Marcos Alonso.
Attempt missed. Jorginho (Chelsea) right footed shot from outside the box is just a bit too high following a corner.
Corner, Chelsea. Conceded by Etienne Capoue.
Substitution, Chelsea. Emerson replaces Callum Hudson-Odoi because of an injury.
Eden Hazard (Chelsea) wins a free kick in the defensive half.
Foul by Abdoulaye Doucouré (Watford).
Substitution, Watford. Isaac Success replaces Gerard Deulofeu.
Foul by Willian (Chelsea).
Etienne Capoue (Watford) wins a free kick in the attacking half.
Eden Hazard (Chelsea) wins a free kick on the left wing.
Foul by Adrian Mariappa (Watford).
Substitution, Chelsea. Ross Barkley replaces Mateo Kovacic.
Attempt missed. Troy Deeney (Watford) right footed shot from the centre of the box is too high. Assisted by Abdoulaye Doucouré with a cross.
Attempt missed. N’Golo Kanté (Chelsea) right footed shot from the right side of the box is close, but misses to the left. Assisted by Eden Hazard following a fast break.
David Luiz (Chelsea) wins a free kick in the defensive half.
Foul by Craig Cathcart (Watford).
Foul by David Luiz (Chelsea).
Troy Deeney (Watford) wins a free kick in the attacking half.
Foul by Marcos Alonso (Chelsea).
José Holebas (Watford) wins a free kick in the defensive half.
Corner, Chelsea. Conceded by Kiko Femenía.
Foul by N’Golo Kanté (Chelsea).
Domingos Quina (Watford) wins a free kick on the left wing.
Willian (Chelsea) hits the right post with a left footed shot from the left side of the box. Assisted by Eden Hazard.
Jorginho (Chelsea) wins a free kick on the left wing.
Foul by Domingos Quina (Watford).
Substitution, Watford. Domingos Quina replaces Ken Sema.