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Wednesday, December 1, 2021

Full time: Watford 1-2 Chelsea -- Chelsea stay top of the Premier League

  Hakim Ziyech stepped off the substitutes’ bench to earn Premier League leaders Chelsea a hard-fought victory in the strangest of circumsta...


Hakim Ziyech stepped off the substitutes’ bench to earn Premier League leaders Chelsea a hard-fought victory in the strangest of circumstances at Vicarage Road.

The game was held up for 30 minutes after a male supporter suffered a cardiac arrest in the home stand and needed CPR before being taken to hospital. Thankfully, the fan was stabilised and play resumed with Chelsea producing a disjointed performance on a night when Saul Niguez was again substituted at half-time and Trevoh Chalobah suffered an injury.

Mason Mount had given Chelsea the lead against the run of play before Emmanuel Dennis equalised for the hosts, who will see this as an opportunity missed. It was Mount who turned provider for Ziyech and Chelsea head coach Thomas Tuchel will no doubt be delighted to take all three points, but worried about his team’s injury problems.

It was Chelsea’s left wing-back Marcos Alonso who appeared to spot the medical emergency in the upper tier of the Graham Taylor stand while Watford left-back Adam Masina was down receiving treatment in the 10th minute on the opposite side of the pitch.

As Masina received treatment, medics from both clubs raced to the stands to help the male supporter who had suffered a cardiac arrest and required CPR. Referee David Coote spoke to both managers and both captains before taking the players off the pitch in the 13th minute, as everybody waited for news on the fan’s condition.

The Watford and Chelsea players decided that they would not re-enter the pitch until it was clear the supporter was stable and the away club’s medics, Dimitri Kalogiannidis and Steve Hughes, made their way back towards the tunnel in the 17th minute. Watford and Chelsea supporters applauded and cheered when a stretcher was seen carrying the supporter out of the stadium to hospital at just after 8pm, more than 20 minutes after the play had been stopped.

The Watford medics made their way back to the tunnel and both sets of players re-entered the pitch for a five-minute warm-up during which there was an announcement over the loud speakers to confirm that the supporter had been stabilised and thanking the fans who had helped.

Watford also released a statement on the club’s Twitter account that said: “The players have returned to the field in preparation of play resuming. Our thoughts are with the fan – who had a cardiac arrest but has now been stabilised – and all those affected. Thank you to the medical staff, players and fans for their quick response.”

It was more than half-an-hour after the stoppage that the game resumed in the 12th minute of the match with Danny Rose replacing Masina. Chelsea had made a poor start to the game, for which Tuchel made six changes, before the stoppage, with Trevoh Chalobah needing to make a good block from Joao Pedro and Edouard Mendy forced to make a diving save to keep out the Watford forward’s header.

Saul started his first Premier League game since his nightmare Chelsea debut against Aston Villa, in which he was substituted at half-time, and suffered a similarly bad opening 45 minutes at Vicarage Road.

Chelsea were sloppy in possession and looked vulnerable at the back, and yet the Blues were inches from taking a 19th-minute lead when Ruben Loftus-Cheek’s header fell to the feet of Mount and his shot smacked the post.

Mount made no mistake just over 10 minutes later, however, when he finished a great move that involved Rudiger and Alonso. It was Kai Havertz who squared the ball for the England midfielder to beat Watford goalkeeper Daniel Bachmann.

Mendy had to make his second good save of the evening to prevent Rose from equalising with a well-struck volley, but Watford deservedly drew level on the stroke of half-time after seizing on an error from Loftus-Cheek. Moussa Sissoko robbed the Chelsea midfielder of the ball and passed to Dennis, who beat Mendy with a shot that took a slight deflection off Rudiger.

Sissoko and Dennis combined again before the break, with the former Tottenham midfielder almost scoring, and Chelsea were relieved to hear the half-time whistle. Unsurprisingly, Tuchel made a change at the break by sending on Silva, as Saul was once again hauled off at half-time and Chalobah moved into midfield.

But Chalobah was later forced off with an injury that meant Tuchel had to send on Ziyech and Chelsea’s midfield became even more makeshift. But the introduction of Ziyech proved to be decisive, as the Moroccan netted what proved to be Chelsea’s winner in the 73rd minute. Rudiger’s pass was headed on by Alonso and Mount produced a perfect cross for Ziyech to find the net.

Before Chaolbah’s injury, William Troost-Ekong, who could have easily been sent-off, had done brilliantly to cut out a Havertz cross intended for Mount. And Mendy had tackled Tom Cleverly outside his penalty area, with the Watford midfielder racing through on goal. The goalkeeper hurt himself in the process but was able to continue.

Ziyech could have made it a comfortable final eight minutes for the visitors, but Bachmann managed to save his header and Mendy stopped a late Juraj Kuka free-kick.

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