Watford 0 Chelsea 0: If this really was the start of John Terry’s farewell tour, then we should have perhaps expected nothing else.
For this was not the Chelsea that wowed fans on Sunday night with their goals and guile at Milton Keynes, but a throwback to teams gone by.
The visitors were combative, solid, and almost impossible to break down. Jose Mourinho would have certainly approved. But Terry is another who would have gained satisfaction from the stalemate at Vicarage Road.
For a defender who has just found out his contract will not be renewed in the summer, nothing justifies your worth more than a cleansheet.
And that’s exactly what Chelsea got on a night where their creative flair displayed under Guus Hiddink played second fiddle to defensive discipline.
As has been the case all season for Watford, it was the pairing of Ighalo and Deeney who looked most likely to break the deadlock after both defences started strongly. But with Terry marshalling the Chelsea defence the visitors’ goal remained in tact, as chants of ‘sign him up’ were belted out from the away end.
“We’ll take that. Before the season we definitely would have taken two points fromtwo games against Chelsea,” said Deeney.
Watford were controlling the game, though, and after 25 minutes Thibaut Courtois’ hands were beginning to warm up. First Sebastien Prodl headed straight at the Belgian after rising highest from a corner, before Etienne Capoue drew another good save with a stingy drive just inside the box.
Despite their dominance, Watford were almost undone by a long ball as Diego Costa turned Craig Cathcart and fired his deflected effort just wide.
After their 5-1 demolition of MK Dons on Sunday, this was more like the Chelsea of old and Cesar Azpilicueta’s skewed shot wide typified a half devoid of quality.
Indeed the highlight of the first 45 minutes came moments before the break as Costa and Juan Carlos Paredes wheeled the circus into town.
First, Costa went down from a Paredes push, before the striker returned the favour by knocking the defender down. Both players were booked for their antics and the half was brought to a bizarre end. The interval appeared to have loosened the shackles on both teams as the second-half began with some much needed attacking intent.
John Obi Mikel forced Heurelho Gomes to tip his long range drive over the bar and Deeney brushed the outside of the post with a 20-yard volley.
Jose Holebas then went when one step closer as he smashed a strike into the side netting, but it was Chelsea who proceeded to carve out the game’s best chance. That man Costa was at the heart of it again, but this time the striker dropped the theatrics and instead teed up Oscar inside the box. The Brazilian could only prod wide though.
As the game ticked into the final 20 minutes neither side was finding a way past their stubborn opponents on a night where only a flash of brilliance looked as though it would be the difference. Oscar almost provided it with a strike from outside the box, however once again Gomes beat it away.
After scoring his first goal of the season in the FA Cup win over MK Dons last weekend, Eden Hazard was thrown on in the hope he could make the difference. And the Belgian almost made an immediate impact as his cut-back to Branislav Ivanovic drew another fine save from Gomes.
Chelsea and Hazard’s tails were up and the playmaker went close again, but as he skipped past Allan Nyom’s challenge Gomes was again able to thwart him. All of Chelsea’s joy was coming through Hazard and yet more trickery led to a cross which Costa could not quite convert at the back-post.
Moments later the striker went close again as another back-post ball had Gomes scrambling to tip his header wide. Watford did, however, hold out and on a night where Terry potentially began a long goodbye, the farewell tour did at least begin with a cleansheet.
Gomes 7; Paredes 5 (67 Nyom 5), Prodl 7, Cathcart 7, Holebas 7; Behrami 6, Watson 7, Capoue 6 (85 Suarez 5); Jurado 5 (62 Abdi 5); Deeney 6, Ighalo 7.
Courtois 7; Ivanovic 6, Terry 7, Zouma 7, Azpilicueta 7; Mikel 6, Matic 6 (72 Hazard 7); Willian 6, Fabregas 5, Oscar 5; Costa 5.
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