Frank Lampard said “sloppy” Chelsea need to be more clinical after they survived a tense finish to climb to third place in the Premier League with a 2-1 victory at lowly Watford on Saturday. Lampard’s side bounced back from their midweek League Cup defeat against Manchester United to make it five successive league wins.
The Blues have won eight of their past nine matches in all competitions as Lampard continues to make a good impression in his first season in charge.
His decision to go with unproven youngsters like Tammy Abraham, who opened the scoring, has been a shrewd move, while Christian Pulisic, scorer of the second, is justifying his hefty price tag after starting the season on the bench.
Gerard Deulofeu’s late VAR-awarded penalty came too late to stop Chelsea recording a seventh successive away win in all competitions.
They are just two points behind second-placed Manchester City despite being unable to sign players in the summer due to a transfer ban.
But with a trip to City looming and Champions League ties against Ajax and Valencia on the schedule, November will provide much sterner tests of Chelsea’s progress than this stroll in the autumn chill at Vicarage Road.
“We played really well, our midfield was outstanding, but we just cannot have that sloppy bit near the end,” Lampard said.
“It was a terrible 10 minutes considering how the game had gone. We need to be more clinical, we got a bit sloppy.
“We rely on our goalkeeper for those moments at the end of the game and he did what we needed him to do.”
Despite his frustration at Chelsea’s nervous finish, Lampard praised their impressive start.
“I’m happy with how the players are playing. It’s great to watch,” he said.
Watford could have lost by a much bigger margin and they remain bottom of the table, without a win in the league this season.
Chelsea made a blistering start that reaped an immediate reward when Abraham accelerated on Jorginho’s sublime pin-point pass and lifted a cool finish over Ben Foster.
It was Abraham’s 10th goal of his breakthrough campaign ending a five-game goal drought for the young England striker, who has scored seven goals in away games this season.
Just as significantly, Jorginho’s role in the goal indicated the Italy midfielder’s improved form in his second season with Chelsea.
– Foster keeps it close –
Only Foster stopped Chelsea’s dominant display yielding more goals.
Foster kept out Abraham with a fine save, then from Willian’s corner, Pulisic looped a header that forced an even better stop by the Watford keeper.
Having won their previous six games on the road in all competitions, Chelsea were in confident mood and Mason Mount was inches away from their second goal when his long-range blast was pushed onto the bar by Foster’s fine save.
Chelsea had lost just one of their last 58 league games when leading at half-time, at Wolves in December 2018.
Foster was all that stood between the Blues and another away-day success as the 36-year-old denied Mount with another superb stop early in the second half.
Pulisic had scored a hat-trick in last weekend’s win at Burnley and the United States winger was back on the scoresheet to put the result beyond doubt in the 55th minute.
Abraham was the provider with a low cross and Pulisic evaded Watford’s dozing defence to tap in from close range.
Boos rang out when Daryl Janmaat was replaced by Kiko Femenia as Watford fans barraged boss Quique Sanchez Flores with chants of “you don’t know what you’re doing”.
But Watford were given a controversial 80th-minute lifeline when VAR ruled that Jorginho had caught Deulofeu with a trip that drew a theatrical fall from the winger.
Deulofeu dusted himself down to slot home the penalty.
Foster, up for a last second free-kick, almost gave Watford a dramatic point, but his header was brilliantly saved by Kepa Arrizabalaga, who was mobbed by celebrating team-mates at the final whistle.