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Watford 0 - 1 Chelsea


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Watford 0-1 ChelseaBarclay's Premiership - 31st March 2007 - Vicarage Road - 17:15 kick-off

003990_6a0c144a.jpgSalomon Kalou was once again the hero for Chelsea, who continued their dogged pursuit of league leaders and Champions-elect Manchester United, with a crucial winner deep into injury time.The three points were barely deserved - but the current Champions showed exactly why they have won two back-to-back titles, as they ground out a precious win to keep up their relentless pressure on the Red Devils.The Blues came into this game on the back of six straight Premiership wins and six clean sheets, since their 2-0 defeat to Liverpool at Anfield. Since that day in January, the Blues had gone unbeaten in 14 games, and reached the semi-finals of the FA Cup and set up a highly-anticipated European clash with Valencia. However, any thoughts of an easy victory against Watford were rubbished after just fourteen seconds of this affair - with Watford coming straight out of the starting blocks to win a corner.Chelsea were still feeling sore from their bruising 3-3 encounter with Tottenham in March at Stamford Bridge, as Michael Essien sat out for the fourth consecutive game. Wayne Bridge was recovering after having knee surgery and Arjen Robben's recurring injuries brought a premature end to his season as he agreed to undergo knee surgery. To further compound Chelsea's injury woe, they were also missing long-time absentee Joe Cole. However, Frank Lampard, who had sat out England's 3-0 win in Andorra played despite fracturing his wrist whilst training for the national team. Lassana Diarra was missing with an injured shoulder, so Mourinho threw in Gérémi.Watford were fully fit heading into this physical encounter, with defenders Jordan Stewart and Jay DeMerit both included despite suffering knocks in previous games for club and country.Watford's form this season has left much to be desired - three Premiership wins from 30 games and just nineteen goals scored has left the Premiership's bottom club stranded in the relegation zone virtually all campaign, and with fellow strugglers West Ham and Charlton picking up much-deserved victories earlier in the afternoon, the Hornets needed a result to stand any real chance of safety this season.Chelsea, on the other hand, continue to show exactly why they are Champions. Despite missing players such as John Terry, Joe Cole, Michael Essien and Petr Cech to long-term injury throughout the season, and having key players such as Wayne Bridge and Arjen Robben unavailable for this encounter, they have not let league leaders Manchester United run away with the Premiership trophy. Instead, United are 'just' six points clear of Chelsea, and with a meeting between the two still to come in May the Premiership title race is very much on.Since their league defeats to Liverpool and Arsenal respectively, Chelsea and United have shown ruthless efficiency in their six games since - with each team picking up eighteen points form eighteen, they have matched each other blow-for-blow. United have battered teams with their superior firepower, and Chelsea's superb defence had not been breached for 612 minutes heading into the Watford game.However, with Manchester United thrashing Blackburn Rovers (who Chelsea face in two weeks time in the FA Cup semi-final) 4-1 at Old Trafford, the current Champions found themselves in need of three points to stay in touch of their bitter northern rivals.And chants of "Where's your title gone?" from the jubilant Watford crowd certainly did not help the Chelsea team, who were lead out by John Terry at a quarter past five on a fine Saturday evening.Little did he know, that he would end up on his backside 14 seconds later to clear the ball for a corner and then another twenty seconds later that he would be on the ground with a head injury.Thankfully for the Chelsea skipper, who has seen more than his fair share of injury this term, he was able to shake off the blow and was able to continue. Darius Henderson accidentally caught him with a stray elbow after just 32 seconds, but later apologised as both had eyes only for the ball._42751331_lampard300.jpgChelsea's vice-captain Frank Lampard's expression shows that Chelsea were in for a tough ninety minutes.A moment that caused much controversy occurred moments later. Henderson hit a cross into the box, and the ball appeared to hit Terry's arm, but referee Uriah Rennie waved away protests from the Watford faithful. There was little plea for a spot kick from the Watford team.The Hornets' surprising start continued when Steve Kabba, recent addition to the Watford squad, hit a spectacular over-head kick. The ball seemed to be destined for the back of the net, but a smart reaction save from Petr Cech denied the Watford striker his first goal for the club. Ricardo Carvalho cleared the resulting corner with a towering header.The first half was a true midfield battle - Aidy Boothroyd ordered his team to match the formation of Chelsea, and play the ball on the floor to frustrate the Champions. However, Claude Makelele and Michael Ballack would have none of it - as both had excellent first halves - the pair soaked up the pressure on the Blues' defence, allowing full-backs Gérémi and Ashley Cole license to push forward along with the energetic Ricardo Carvalho, who was bursting forward at every possible opportunity, leaving, at points just John Terry and Petr Cech behind to defend the goal.Watford, however, still managed to break through Chelsea's scattered midfield. Shaun Wright-Phillips did little to aid his struggling companion Frank Lampard, who was marshalled out of the game. A long, hopeful cross found Henderson, whose weak header was not a test for Cech.But Watford fought on, and their strikers chased lost causes. Steve Kabba breathed down the neck of Petr Cech whenever he challenged for the ball, and said pressure caused the Chelsea shot-stopper to spill the ball. However, the Czech Republic number one managed to recover brilliantly and punch the ball behind.Henderson shot wide later in the half, before Kabba missed a golden opportunity just before the break to put the home team ahead. He latched onto Henderson's cross from the right, but his touch let him down, and he powered his shot wide after he failed to get a strong balance on his standing foot._42751297_thatcher416.jpgNo, Ben Foster wasn't auditioning for Strictly Come Dancing, but rather superbly denying Drogba his 30th goal of the season.Chelsea turned up the heat, and had a couple of attempts on goal themselves. Foster sharply stopped Drogba's half-volley with his foot, whilst Lampard's penalty claims were turned down, despite being obviously brought down in the area.Half-time came with the score still 0-0 - Watford's robust team had denied Chelsea the room they craved, and for the first 45 minutes it looked as if Watford were to be handing Manchester United the Premiership trophy.José Mourinho responded by taking off Gérémi and Makelele at half-time, replacing the defensive pair with Paulo Ferreira and the more attacking-minded Salomon Kalou.But Watford continued to hurry the Champions in a second half that was few in chances and tied down in the midfield, as Watford camped outside their area to defend Chelsea's relentless pressure from their 8-man strike force.Kabba missed yet another sitter in almost exactly the same fashion as the first, and Terry and Henderson resumed their verbal abuse towards one-another. The pressure truly began to take the toll on Watford's tiring defence in the last ten minutes. José Mourinho threw substitute John Obi Mikel, Ricardo Carvalho and Michael Ballack up front alongside Shevchenko, Drogba and Kalou, with Lampard and Wright-Phillips playing in the midfield with just Terry and Ferreira in defence, protecting Cech.Ballack missed a sitter with six minutes to go, with a fresh air shot. Shevchenko failed to convert the ball as it bounced around, and Lampard blazed over from 30 yards.The (ex-?)England midfielder was through on goal for a second time, but Jay DeMerit blocked with an excellent tackle, before Shevchenko floated in a cross from the right flank.Much to manager Mourinho's joy, Kalou popped up to head the excellent cross into the net beyond Ben Foster, to break the hearts of Watford and Manchester United fans, shortly after Cech had excellently stopped Damien Francis at his front post._42751363_celeb300.jpgPaulo Ferreira congratulates Shevchenko on his cross for the winner, as Drogba, Mikel, Terry and Kalou celebrate.Seven games left, still six points behind Manchester United.Squads and RatingsWatford (4-1-2-1-2) Foster; Chambers, Shittu, DeMerit, Stewart; Mahon ©; Francis, Rinaldi; Smith; Henderson (Priskin 68), Kabba (Bouazza 80).Booked Francis (23). Chelsea (4-1-2-1-2) Cech; Gérémi (Ferreira h-t), Carvalho, Terry ©, A Cole (Mikel 57); Makelele (Kalou h-t); Wright-Phillips, Lampard; Ballack; Drogba, Shevchenko.Scorer Kalou (90+2).Booked Wright-Phillips (65), Ferreira (75), Carvalho (90).Chelsea Formation and RatingsPetr Cech8/10Gérémi .... Terry ..... Carvalho ..... Cole6/10 .........7/10 ........ 8/10.......... 6/10W.Phillips .... Makelele ..... Ballack ..... Lampard6/10 .........7/10 ........ 7/10.......... 6/10Drogba .......... Shevchenko6/10 ............ 7/10Referee Uriah Rennie failed to see three definite penalties - two for Chelsea and one for Watford - 3/10Watford - Statistics - Chelsea0 - Goals - 1 4 - Shots on target ( Inc Goals ) - 6 5 - Shots off Target (inc woodwork) - 5 3 - Blocked Shots - 2 5 - Corners Won - 10 18 - Total Fouls Conceded - 10 0 - Offsides - 2 1 - Yellow Cards - 3 0 - Red Card - 0 45% - Possession - 55% Star Mancarvalho_ricardo_cfc_.jpgRicardo Carvalho

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