Watford 1 Chelsea 2: Inspirational Hazard joins 100 club

Eden Hazard's two goals saw Chelsea leave Watford with all three points after a tough test at Vicarage Road.

Chelsea star Eden Hazard celebrates against Watford.   -  Getty Images

Eden Hazard reached a century of goals for Chelsea to inspire them to a 2-1 victory over Watford in Wednesday's Premier League clash.

The Belgium star moved onto 101 for the Blues, striking either side of Roberto Pererya's stunning volley to seal all three points for Maurizio Sarri's side at Vicarage Road.

READ | Sarri compares Hazard's Chelsea impact to Messi at Barcelona

The result puts Chelsea back in the driving seat in the race for the top four, with Arsenal having dropped points earlier in the day and champion Manchester City now only four points ahead in third place.

Willian dribbled past Ben Foster and shot wide with the best of the early chances, the incident forcing Watford to take off Christian Kabasele after he injured his arm when colliding with the post.

Hazard, again deployed as a false nine, failed to connect with Cesar Azpilicueta's cross with the goal at his mercy but made amends in first-half injury time, rounding Foster and finishing after Mateo Kovacic won back the ball in Watford's half.

 

However, the lead did not last until half-time, Pereyra smashing home a volley from Jose Holebas' cross to restore parity.

Watford felt it deserved a penalty when David Luiz shouldered Gerard Deulofeu to ground shortly after the break, and their frustrations were compounded 58 minutes in when Hazard scored from the spot after being brought down by Foster.

Willian and N'Golo Kante each fired narrowly wide after more fine work by Hazard, but Chelsea's one-goal lead proved enough, with Troy Deeney missing Watford's best chance for a leveller as he prodded over the bar.

What does it mean? Sarri's men steal march in top-four race

With Arsenal failing to beat Brighton and Hove Albion, Chelsea was able to move two points above the Gunners in the final Champions League spot.

It was an important result for Sarri's side given the shock defeat to Leicester City last time out, and will give them a morale lift during this hectic stage of the season.

Watford sits ninth by virtue of Everton's thrashing of Burnley, but Javi Gracia will be reasonably encouraged by the standard of his side's performance.

 

Where would Chelsea be without Hazard?

He might not always like playing the central attacking role, but Hazard is the reason Chelsea won this game and have a two-point cushion to fifth-place Arsenal. There are few more decisive players in England.

Boxing Day blues for Foster

Chelsea failed to threaten Watford's goal too often, and when it did, it faced an out-of-sorts Foster. He went to ground too early for Hazard's first and clumsily conceded the penalty. He did at least try to make amends by going up for a late corner, which saw him attempt a bicycle-kick throughball.

Key Opta Facts

- Chelsea has only lost one of their seven Premier League games against opponents that started the day in the top 10 this season (W3 D3), with that lone defeat coming against Tottenham in November (1-3 at Wembley).
- After losing just three of their first 13 home league games under Javi Gracia (W8 D2), Watford has since lost three of its last four (W1).
- Chelsea is unbeaten in its last 14 Premier League games played on Boxing Day (W9 D5), since a 2-4 loss at Charlton in 2003-04.
- There were just 137 seconds between Chelsea opening the scoring and Watford equalising through Pereyra.

What's next?

Chelsea heads to Crystal Palace on Sunday, with Watford in action a day earlier at home to Newcastle United.