Chelsea missed the opportunity to move up to 12th in the Premier League after a dismal draw at Watford.
Diego Costa had the Blues’ best chance, which was acrobatically saved by former Tottenham stopper Heurelho Gomes, who also made second-half saves from Nemanja Matic’s volley and John Mikel Obi’s looping, deflected effort.
Following an exciting win over MK Dons in the FA Cup on Sunday, confidence would have been high heading into this fixture, but a negative approach inspired by Guus Hiddink’s questionable decision to field the under-performing Matic alongside Mikel in a two-man midfield led to an insipid performance that means the Blues have only won one of their last four Premier League clashes.
Equally curious was the Dutchman’s choice to leave Eden Hazard on the bench after the Belgian scored his first goal of the season on Sunday. Instead, Oscar was fielded on the wing and put in an anonymous performance which typifies his season and reaffirms his reputation for inconsistency.
When Hazard did finally join the action – 72 minutes too late, all being told – he threatened to add some invention and creativity to a dour game of football, but his recent lack of fitness was all too apparent as he wasted a good opportunity with a heavy first touch.
Branislav Ivanovic also had an effort well saved by Gomes on the one occasion the Blues forwards were able to move through the gears with a slick passing move, but, Costa’s fine header aside, which was semi-miraculously patted away from the goal by the diving Brazilian goalkeeper, Chelsea did nowhere near enough to deserve anything more than a single point.
With Everton thumping Newcastle at Goodison Park, fears of a Chelsea relegation seem to have evaporated, but this missed opportunity means that the Blues have now won only three of their eight Premier League matches under the Dutchman, and are now a mammoth sixteen points off Champions League qualification.