Saturday 10 December 2016

Oscar and Chelsea pay the penalty as Guus Hiddink starts with a point

Published 26/12/2015 | 17:21

Chelsea's Diego Costa, right, produced a significantly improved performance
Chelsea's Diego Costa, right, produced a significantly improved performance

Oscar slipped to send a penalty over the crossbar and blow a vital Chelsea victory against Watford in interim manager Guus Hiddink's first match in charge.

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Diego Costa had already scored both of Chelsea's goals, first giving his team the lead and then equalising after Watford went in front through Troy Deeney and Odion Ighalo, when they were awarded a penalty in the 78th minute.

Oscar unexpectedly wasted his effort, and in doing so allowed in-form Watford to secure a 2-2 draw, to remain in seventh place, and to leave Chelsea with much work to do from 15th.

Hiddink was overseeing the first fixture of his second reign as Chelsea's interim manager, having succeeded the recently-sacked Jose Mourinho. His first, when he replaced Luiz Felipe Scolari, went so well that many of the club's fans wanted him to stay on a permanent basis, but there is little question the circumstances this time are more difficult.

Inheriting a team just two places off the relegation zone - no matter how misleading that may seem - will have made him aware of that, and though Chelsea possess the talent to finish considerably higher, his players' confidence remains fragile.

If it had been Hiddink's plan to boost that, it rarely showed, because his playmakers were again largely reluctant to express themselves. Beyond Costa's fourth-minute header, from Pedro's cross, a goalscoring threat was minimal until they took the lead.

Watford possess one of the division's most organised defences, and as on so many occasions this season they again deserved credit for nullifying a multi-talented attack which only succeeded for the first time with their 32nd-minute goal because of reasonable fortune.

Costa, who again demonstrated a more-familiar desire with a consistently-industrious performance, showed his quality with a classy left-footed finish when John Terry had headed Willian's right-wing corner off Gary Cahill and into the striker's path.

The expectation was Chelsea would respond to scoring by playing with greater confidence but, though Oscar soon threatened by shooting over at the near-post, Watford swiftly equalised.

Inexplicably, Nemanja Matic, under little pressure, fully-stretched his arm to handball in the area, leaving referee Andre Marriner with little option to award the penalty. Deeney calmly placed his effort down the middle as Thibaut Courtois dived to the bottom left, and Watford assumed the momentum.

Their impressive start to the season has often been overlooked amid the collective struggles of Chelsea and Manchester United, but with four consecutive victories prior to Saturday's trip to Stamford Bridge they will soon be given greater attention.

At one point in the second half that run looked likely to be extended to five. Ighalo was dribbling away from goal and had already waited too long to shot when he sent the ball goalwards as his options ran out. It should have posed little threat, but instead took a heavy deflection off Cahill and went sailing in beyond Courtois' reach in the 56th minute.

Chelsea levelled nine minutes later, when Costa encouragingly produced another fine close-range finish after running onto Willian's exceptional through-ball, but victory escaped them when Oscar sent his penalty, awarded following Valon Behrami's clumsy challenge on Eden Hazard, over the bar.

TWEET OF THE MATCH

@GullitR: " It's a #chelsea thing to slip when they kick a penalty" former Chelsea player and manager Ruud Gullit remembers John Terry's slip in Moscow.

https://twitter.com/GullitR/status/680789605797490688

PLAYER RATINGS

CHELSEA

Thibaut Courtois: 6

Branislav Ivanovic: 5

Gary Cahill: 6

John Terry: 6

Cesar Azpilicueta: 6

Pedro: 6

Nemanja Matic: 6

Willian: 7

Cesc Fabregas: 4

Oscar: 6

Diego Costa: 8

Substitutes

Jon Obi Mikel: 6

Eden Hazard: 6

WATFORD

Heurelho Gomes: 7

Allan Nyom: 6

Miguel Britos: 7

Craig Cathcart: 7

Jose Holebas: 6

Etienne Capoue: 7

Ben Watson: 7

Almen Abdi: 6

Jose Manuel Jurado: 6

Troy Deeney: 7

Odion Ighalo: 7

Substitutes

Ikechi Anya: 6

Valon Behrami: 4

Adlene Guedioura: 5

STAR PLAYER

Diego Costa. The striker has been one of Chelsea's biggest under-performers this season, but with two classy goals and a consistently hard-working performance all over the pitch, he again resembled the player who contributed so much to their success last season. If he maintains this form, he still has a future in London.

MOMENT OF THE MATCH

Oscar's penalty miss. It initially surprised that Costa was not given the chance to score his hat-trick, but that would not have mattered had Oscar scored. It was difficult to blame him given he slipped, but it was a chance to secure victory and he wasted it. A win could have done so much for Chelsea's confidence.

VIEW FROM THE BENCH

Guus Hiddink was overseeing the first game of his second spell as Chelsea's interim manager, and while he still has much work to do, the early signs were encouraging and bode well for the remainder of the season. The reigning champions will continue to improve. Quique Sanchez Flores had again impressively organised his team and was largely responsible for another good point for his team. They have drawn one and won four of their past five fixtures. The Spaniard simply does not get enough credit for the job he is doing.

MOAN OF THE MATCH

What on earth was Valon Behrami thinking with that foul on Eden Hazard? That tackle was among the worst of this season. The Swiss was comically clumsy in fouling Hazard to concede a penalty, when he should have stayed on his feet, and was simply fortunate that Oscar then slipped instead of scoring from the resultant penalty.

WHO'S UP NEXT

Manchester United v Chelsea (Barclays Premier League, Monday, December 28)

Watford v Tottenham (Barclays Premier League, Monday, December 28)

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