Chelsea 4 Watford 0: Inspiration from Drogba does trick
Boothroyd comes off distant second as Mourinho's rampant Chelsea brush Watford aside
Watford's Adrian Boothroyd had been looking forward to pitting his wits against Jose Mourinho, but after all the shenanighans of last Sunday in the capital, the day's football after the Lord Mayor's Show was mercifully not about managers or officials, but players. Predictably, Chelsea's were infinitely better than those of the Premiership newcomers, who found their direct style comfortably countered and were pushed back into the bottom three by a second hat-trick of the season from an inspired Didier Drogba.
Andriy Shevchenko, set up by Drogba, scored as well and for the last 20 minutes the principal point of interest was whether Chelsea might reach five goals for only the second time in Mourinho's three seasons at Stamford Bridge. He had to settle for completing 50 home games in the Premiership without defeat and keeping the pressure on Manchester United ahead of what already looks a momentous meeting between the two a fortnight today.
Both managers had fielded such strong sides in the respective midweek Carling Cup ties that there were only a couple of changes to each team. Ashley Cole and John Terry returned for the home side, Gavin Mahon and Tommy Smith for the visitors. Ben Foster, named again in England's senior squad, was back in Watford's goal and expecting to be kept busy. He was not disappointed, though for a while Carlo Cudicini at the other end had more to do, catching the endless crosses that were pumped towards his far post as attackers pressurised him. There was not a sniff of a chance, however, until after Drogba had scored in the 27th and 36th minutes.
The first goal significantly involved two defenders helping to break down a heavily manned Watford rearguard. Ricardo Carvalho began a smart move down the right and fed Gérémi for a low cross that Shevchenko attempted to touch on for Drogba to knock in from six yards. The scorer was unmarked, as he would be even more scandalously nine minutes later. This time he slipped a pass to Shevchenko, and was allowed to run on to the return ball unattended by Danny Shittu, who appealed half-heartedly for offside as Drogba netted again from close in.
Long before that the marking had twice been equally negligent on Drogba, who dragged a shot past the post and then headed Frank Lampard's cross over the bar. Watford could hardly claim they had not been warned. Apart from Jay DeMerit's wild shot into the crowd, they did not threaten until shortly before half-time, the same player setting up Ashley Young to shoot against Cudicini's legs.
By that time Mourinho was looking more relaxed again, having prowled his technical area early on to demand a faster tempo from his team. He did his bit by leaping out to retrieve the ball for a quick throw-in (and missing it). Only when Carvalho was penalised for a fair tackle and Lloyd Doyley sent Drogba crashing with a dreadful one was the manager on his feet again, to remonstrate with the (entirely innocent) fourth official.
After the interval, Drogba, so often criticised for having a poor first touch, showed how much his all-round game has improved by creating two chances in a few minutes, the second of them bringing a goal. In the 48th minute, he deftly volleyed Gérémi's throw forward for Michael Ballack, who lobbed it wide. Soon afterwards as Chelsea took the direct Watford route he controlled Cudicini's long kick and put Shevchenko in for a second goal of the week.
When they had the opportunity to get forward, the visitors continued to do their thing, sending over big crosses and throws. Young, a skinny little John Barnes, managed to put a boot on Hameur Bouazza's centre without diverting it close enough to goal, but the veteran Chris Powell must have wondered about the privilege of being allowed on as substitute for Bouazza. Jordan Stewart moved from left-back into midfield in an attempt to improve the quality of service to the front players.
Any relief Watford felt at seeing a more confident looking Shevchenko leave the pitch soon after having another goal disallowed for fractional offside was tempered at realising that his replacement would be Arjen Robben, injecting even more pace and some extra width. Within four minutes of pulling off his training top, the Dutchman had drifted out wide and supplied Gérémi for a low cross that gave Drogba his hat-trick.
It also gave him 14 goals for the season, and brought Watford firmly down to earth after three clean sheets and a first victory of the season against Middlesbrough last week. They will have to put yesterday down to experience.
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