Cesc Fabregas scored an 88th-minute winner as Chelsea deservedly came out on top against Watford at Stamford Bridge.
In a topsy-turvy encounter, the champions saw their opponents twice come from behind to equalise before Fabregas’ late intervention.
It was John Terry who opened the scoring, but the Chelsea skipper then inadvertently assisted the Hornets’ equaliser as Capoue headed home. Cesar Azpilicueta restored the lead with a sumptuous finish with Stamford Bridge in party mode.
The feel-good factor was prevalent following Friday’s title-winning escapades at the Hawthorns, and Michy Batshuayi – the man who sealed Chelsea’s sixth league title – was at it again tonight, turning home Nathan Ake’s cut-back to give the Blues an seemingly unassailable lead.
But Daryl Janmaat’s superb solo goal, and a Stefano Okaka volley made it 3-3 as Watford mounted a stirring cut-back. Yet the scene was set for Fabregas, who superbly side-footed a first-time finish beyond Heurelho Gomes.
This result means the Blues have a chance of becoming the first team to win 30 games in a Premier League season.
After the joy of winning the league title on Friday, Chelsea players might have been forgiven for their second-half lapse. A decidedly second-choice starting eleven participated in a game that had the feel of a pre-season friendly, played out in front of a raucous Stamford Bridge crowd.
A carnival atmosphere – and a Watford guard of honour – awaited the champions, led out by skipper Terry.
Fittingly, it was the Blues skipper who opened the scoring, reacting first to volley home following an Eden Hazard corner. Yet, within 35 seconds of the restart, Watford had drawn level again. Capoue raced in to capitalise on hesitancy at the back to nod past Asmir Begovic after Terry made a mess of a defensive header.
A much-changed Chelsea backline certainly looked creaky when under pressure, so it was of little surprise that Antonio Conte saw attack as the best form of defence.
On a night of firsts, following Terry’s first goal of the season, Cesar Azpilicueta followed suit with his first Premier League strike in 16 months. It was an excellent strike, executed perfectly, as the Spaniard guided a drive into the bottom corner from 20 yards.
Then, after the break, on his first league start of the campaign, Batshuayi scored his first Premier League home goal. Nathan Ake reacted brilliantly to Kenedy’s deflected shot, laying the ball on a plate for the Belgian. Batshuayi duly obliged, showing the sort of predatory finishing that led to a £33m investment last summer.
Despite a spirited comeback by Watford – Janmaat first capping a magnificent run with a composed finish, before Okaka reacted sharply to make it 3-3 – there was only one winner once Conte introduced Pedro and Fabregas from the bench. It was Fabregas who found the winner with a sumptuous finish. N’Golo Kante intercepted a loose ball and fed Willian, who teed up the ex-Arsenal man.
Watford’s Prodl was given his marching orders for two quickfire yellows. Pedro then blazed over as the champions looked to crown an incredible game with a fifth goal.
After the match, Azpilicueta said:
“It was our first game after being champions so we knew it could be tough. But we got the three points.
“We want to finish on a high on Sunday [against Sunderland]. We want to get as many points as we can, and we have showed consistency. Even when defeat arrived, we didn’t panic and kept unity. Tottenham were doing well but we had it in our hands and we didn’t let it go.
“It was a good moment to score my first Premier League goal this season after being champions. It was a special moment for me.”