Chelsea and Watford played out a cagey 0-0 draw in what was a tired Wednesday evening London derby.
The Blues, looking to continue the excellent attacking prowess shown at the weekend against MK Dons, failed to score thanks to an inspired Gomes, but he only had four shots on target to deal with whilst Courtois had three.
It summed up what was a laboured stalemate, with Chelsea extending their unbeaten run under Guus Hiddink to 10 matches, the league’s longest unbeaten run, but the reality remains that they are still in 13th position and four points behind Watford, let alone the 16 points still to make up to contend with a Champions League spot.
It looked like it might have turned into an entertaining game. Ighalo, who had only moments earlier looked like he was injured and needed replacing, had an early shot in the sixth minute which tested Courtois.
Meanwhile at the other end, Oscar had what turned out to be the game’s best chance when he was running free on goal. Ready to unleash his shot, Costa inexplicably decided to push a Watford defender over in an off-the-ball incident, which meant referee Mike Dean stopped play. It was an outrageous sabotage of a goal from a striker who looks like he is still longing for his Madrid home.
Chances for Watford next presented themselves, with Holebas getting ahead of Ivanovic to send in a cross, and then Ighalo rose higher than Terry to get in a header. Fortunately for the visitors Ighalo failed to connect properly with the ball, but it was a let-off for Chelsea’s vice-captain and captain respectively, of which the former apparently is worthy of a contract extension but the latter not.
Watford were eager to press home their height advantage from any set-piece and this was shown when, seconds later, Prödl went totally unmarked from a Watford corner. A firm header looked like it would fly into the back of the net but for Courtois’ concentration levels and instinctive reflex save.
Another chance well Chelsea’s way just after the half-hour mark. Oscar’s hopeful punt forward turned out to be an excellent through ball, and Costa raced onto it well and even managed to get his shot away, but was deflected wide.
The half ended with bookings for both Costa and Paredes who enjoyed their square-up a little too much, as Costa was failing to let his football do the talking.
Oscar, Mikel and Matic all tried to deputise with shots of their own but Gomes was rarely tested. Hiddink saw no reason to continue to play both the latter two so it was Matic off and Hazard on, with the Belgian instantly injecting pace — but no goal.
Ivanovic should have scored the winner as the game entered the last 10 minutes but Gomes denied the Serbian by making himself big from five yards out.
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Man of the Match
JOHN TERRY: Despite all the recent media attention on Terry, who looks set to leave Chelsea in the summer, the captain showed why he still is needed at Chelsea. Whilst this was not a win, a clean sheet proves Terry kept Ighalo and Deeney at bay, even if his more attacking colleagues could not do their job. Tried to drive his side forward to find a winner late on and, with the side already desperately short on leaders, Terry needs to stay. 6/10
Hiddink’s first game back in charge of Chelsea was against Watford on Boxing Day and he liked the progress: “We are disappointed because we didn’t get a deserved three points. It had been a difficult half-season for the team but we are playing better. It would have been a big reward winning tonight. We showed ambition tonight in the second half.”
Flores was happy with the point: “It was very hard to score against Chelsea, we had to stop the offences. They are very physical also but we’re happy with the performance and in the second half it was hard to stop Chelsea but I think we deserved this point.”