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Matchday Review

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Thu 20 Feb At 23.02 PM

Highlights | Watford 4-1 Chelsea

  • Bakayako sent off for quick-fire bookings in the first half
  • Deeney penalty gives Watford half-time lead
  • Hazard equalises for the visitors
  • Three goals in six minutes win it for Watford

Doesn't that feel better? Everyone connected with Watford can start breathing that little bit easier and stop nervously looking over their shoulder so much after one of the great, great victories at this famous old ground. What a night to be a fan of the Golden Boys.

The Hornets didn't just topple the champions at Vicarage Road, they thrashed them, giving Javi Gracia his first win in charge as Head Coach and generally making everyone feel a bit better about life. There is a lot of work to be done still and you won't find anybody taking their foot off the pedal but this was thrilling confirmation that, following the hugely encouraging point they dug out at Stoke City, that this team are on the right lines under Gracia and should have far too much to be involved in any kind of relegation scrap.

Yes, Watford had a bit of luck here, playing with ten men for an hour after Tiemoue Bakayoko was sent off for two yellows, but who cares? The Golden Boys were well overdue a slice of good fortune given the horrendous number of injuries they've suffered. Furthermore they probably should have won at Stamford Bridge earlier in the season so this levelled things up.

They threatened to mess it up, allowing Chelsea to level on 82 minutes, but then Daryl Janmaat popped up with one of the goals of this or indeed any season. And what a time to do it. Not to be outdone, Gerard Deulofeu then did his best to top it with a third to put the icing on the cake. The roof nearly came off after that one. The Hornets were in dreamland when Roberto Pereyra rattled in a fourth in stoppage time. From nowhere, this has turned into a rout. This was pinch yourself stuff.

The night was a personal triumph for Gracia and one that will live long in his memory, right up there with the nights he put one over Barcelona. The Head Coach had to dig deep into his resources here, to such an extent that Under-23 defender Joy Mukena was named on the bench but he still got a tune out of them and made maximum use out of what he had at his disposal. The whole was definitely more than the sum of its parts. The team will only get stronger under him and should get even better once the raft of injured players are integrated back in.

What was most impressive about Gracia was his willingness to change formation so soon after the point at Stoke, showing that he's not a one-trick pony and coaches with a great degree of tactical flexibility. He also didn't get carried away when his team were handed a man advantage. Some would have switched to two up top but he stuck to the plan and it paid off. And handsomely so.

Bakayako was sent off for two yellow cards in the space of five minutes

It has also helped the Head Coach that one of the new boys, Deulofeu, has hit the ground running. He's provided just the injection the team badly needed and you can see why he's played for Barcelona and AC Milan. He was magnificent, full of running and lifting the whole mood around the place.

Watford carried on where they left off against Stoke, brimming with energy and showing a real commitment to the cause.

There seemed to be a real desire to take the game to the visitors, to see what exactly what they were made of on a cold light under the lights at Vicarage Road. All the chances early on fell Watford's way, which was a reflection of just how much they were on the front foot.

Abdoulaye Doucoure shot wide after just eight minutes, Deulofeu slammed one into the side sidenetting just 60 seconds later, Troy Deeney didn't quite connect with one at the far post when well placed from a corner and then Richarlison had one from distance blocked by Gary Cahill. It was all Watford. The closest Chelsea came to troubling Orestis Karnezis on his home debut was when Willian blazed one over.

Chelsea were just not at the races, a shadow of the side who blazed their way to the league title last season and it was typical of their failure to get to grips with a quicker, more agile Watford side when Bakayoko was sent off for fouling Etienne Capoue and Richarlison in quick succession. Neither were thunderous challenges and it was brave of Mike Dean to apply the letter of the law after just half an hour.

That left Watford an hour to make their advantage count but they needed just 12 minutes. Janmaat played a ball down the inside right channel that just invited Deulofeu to get on his bike. He put the after burners on, got there before Thibaut Courtois and won the penalty. There was only one man who was going to take it, one man to take such a pressure kick and Deeney didn't disappoint, slamming it into the bottom corner.

You could argue the Hornets deserved to be further in front as they had nine shots on goal to Chelsea's one and won the corner count 5-0.

The Hornets celebrate their first win since December

There was no sitting back on the lead in the second half, no thought of holding what we have. Deulofeu and Richarlison both curled efforts wide, the second after Deeney and got the crowd going by dispossessing David Luiz.

Antonio Conte knew he needed to do something to get back into the game, something to stop Watford having it all their own way. He responded by throwing on Oliver Giroud for his debut, giving Sebastian Prodl something else to think about.

Gracia made his own change soon after, bringing off Richarlison for the second successive match, showing he's not afraid of making the big calls.

The Head Coach, though, was giving some thinking to do when Eden Hazard showed his class by firing one into the far corner from distance. It was some goal, one that Karnezis could get nowhere near. At that stage, it looked like ten-men Chelsea would go on and grab the winner but then Watford cut loose and scored three goals of the highest, highest quality.

Janmaat slalomed his way through the Chelsea defence to put Watford back in front, Deulofeu ran from inside his own half to stroke in the third and then, if that wasn't enough, Pereyra smashed in the fourth. The home fans could barely believe their eyes.

"We want five," chorused the bouncing Rookery End. They had to settle for four, which was beyond anybody's wildest dreams before kick-off. What a night.

HORNETS | Karnezis (GK), Mariappa, Prodl, Zeegelaar; Janmaat, Doucoure, Capoue, Holebas, Deulofeu (Carrillo 89), Richarlison (Pereyra 65), Deeney (Gray 90).

Subs not used | Bachmann (GK), Ndong, Lukebakio, Mukena.

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