I love the third round of the FA Cup as it can give an opportunity to play unfamiliar opposition and visit a new ground. I was on a flight to the US when the draw was made. On landing I eagerly checked who we’d be playing and my heart sank when I saw it was Chelsea. How terribly dull. Still, the pre-match pub had good beer and decent pies and we had a lovely stroll through Brompton Cemetery on the way to the ground. There we were met by a ridiculous security cordon. There were so many checking the tickets of those trying to enter the away end that it was almost impossible to find a space to walk between them. Inside the stadium, I marveled at the array of banners declaring the support of fans from all over the place. The Cornish flag emblazoned with “East Cornwall” was particularly bizarre. Oddly enough there were no banners for Chelsea fans that actually come from London. I much preferred Stamford Bridge when we stood on that open terrace with the hut selling wagon wheels at the back. It had a bit of character then.
Team news was that there were three changes from the Cardiff game with Bond, Deeney and Tözsér coming in for the injured Gomes, the departed Guedioura and the rested Abdi. The starting line-up was Bond, Angella, Cathcart, Hoban, Pudil, Forestieri, Tözsér, Munari, Paredes, Deeney & Ighalo. There was a nice touch from the announcer when he welcomed Jokanovic back to Stamford Bridge.
The first five minutes were awful to watch for a Watford fan as Chelsea played the ball about between themselves as if the Watford players were not there. Pete commented that we should have kicked off because at least that would have meant a touch. The home side’s first goal attempt came as a free kick reached Cahill but he volleyed it over the bar. Thankfully, the visitors soon began to get a foothold in the game and had their first shot on goal with a Tözsér attempt from distance that was easily held by Cech. Soon after a Tözsér free-kick was headed clear by Drogba. At the other end a shot from Remy curled past the top corner. Paredes was booked for jumping into Schürrle much to the disgust of those around me, but it had been a silly challenge. Deeney tried a shot from distance but Cech was behind it. Chelsea’s first on target attempt was a decent one as Drogba got his head to a cross from Remy, Bond dropped and did well to keep it out. Drogba held the ball up and played it square to Schürrle who fired over the target. Just before half time, Forestieri went on a run into the box but his shot was deflected for a corner. Watford could have taken the lead on the stroke of half time as Pudil was released and crossed for Ighalo who disappointingly scuffed his shot wide of the near post.
So we reached half time having matched Chelsea, actually having the majority of the three on-target shots. Mourinho was clearly not impressed with his side’s first half showing as he replaced Schürrle and Oscar with Willian and Diego Costa.
Ten minutes into the half, there was a brilliant reaction save from Cech who stuck out a foot to prevent a Deeney shot deflecting into the far corner. Chelsea took the lead a couple of minutes later as Willian got the ball on the edge of the box and looped it into the top corner. Watford tried to strike back immediately as Deeney exchanged passes with Ighalo and unleashed a shot, but Cech was behind it. Jokanovic made his first substitution replacing Ighalo with Vydra. Watford’s second booking came as Tözsér knocked Ramires over in an innocuous looking coming together. A free-kick from distance looped into Bond’s arms. Chelsea increased their lead on 69 minutes as a shot from Costa was charged down, the ball dropped to Remy who hit it past Bond. Forestieri, who had been guilty of some poor decision making throughout the game, hit a shot from the edge of the box when a pass to Vydra may have been the better option. Chelsea’s third came on 73 minutes as Zouma got on the end of a cross to the back post and headed it past Bond. Jokanovic immediately made his second substitution replacing Tözsér with Abdi.
There were loud shouts for a penalty both on the pitch and in the away end as a cross from Forestieri appeared to be handled by Zouma, but the referee waved the appeals away. Watford pushed for a goal as a shot from Vydra was pushed over by Cech who punched the resulting corner clear while Angella challenged. Watford’s final change saw Murray come on for Munari. Chelsea had a great chance for a fourth as Costa hit a free kick over the wall but Bond got a hand to it to push the ball clear. In the final minute Cathcart exchanged passes with Vydra but his shot was over the target.
While the result may have been expected, the performance had been excellent and the score flattered our hosts. The Watford fans had been on their feet singing for 90 minutes so deserved the gratitude of the players who came over to thank us. I looked beyond them to see no Chelsea player on the pitch and the home stands deserted. What a shame to be so complacent that a 3-0 win is not worthy of celebration. I’m glad we have that over and done with. We can now concentrate on the league and look forward to a trip to Huddersfield on Saturday.