Hakim Ziyech ensured Chelsea remained at the Premier League summit with a 2-1 victory over Watford at Vicarage Road on Wednesday.
The Blues looked set to hand their title rivals a boost by dropping points for the third time in four games, but substitute Ziyech made a decisive impact in the 72nd minute.
Mason Mount gave Chelsea the lead after play was suspended for around half and hour when a fan suffered a cardiac arrest in the stands. Watford later confirmed the individual had been stabilised.
Emmanuel Dennis equalised before half-time but Mount teed up Ziyech for his first Premier League goal of the season to remove the threat of Thomas Tuchel’s men being overtaken by Manchester City or Liverpool.
Watford started brightly and Edouard Mendy had to react quickly to stop Cesar Azpilicueta scoring an own goal in the fifth minute, but there was a significant break in play when a spectator fell ill.
Chelsea’s first effort was cracked against the post by Mount shortly after play resumed but he did not fail at the second attempt, guiding home Kai Havertz’s pass in the 30th minute after an exquisite touch from Marcos Alonso.
Watford drew level on the stroke of half-time, with Moussa Sissoko dispossessing Ruben Loftus-Cheek and launching a break that ended with Dennis finding the bottom-left corner with the help of a deflection off Antonio Rudiger.
Tuchel hooked Saul Niguez and moved Trevoh Chalobah into midfield for the second half but a hamstring injury meant he had to be replaced by Ziyech in the 60th minute.
The game appeared to be heading for a draw until Mount picked out Ziyech in the centre of the box and the Morocco international’s first-time effort had too much power for Daniel Bachmann to keep out.
Bachmann did well to stop Ziyech doubling his tally in the closing stages but Watford were unable to come back a second time and salvage a result.
What does it mean? A first for Chelsea
Thanks to Ziyech’s winner, Chelsea have been victorious in three successive league matches at Vicarage Road for the first time.
It was the Blues’ eighth win in nine Premier League meetings with Watford, with Claudio Ranieri unable to become the first former Chelsea boss to beat them in the competition with two different clubs.
Mount in peak form
Having been a substitute in Chelsea’s previous two games, Mount excelled on his return to the starting line-up. His goal made him the first player to reach double figures in all competitions for the Blues under Tuchel.
So long, Saul?
In his first Premier League start since his debut back in December, Saul failed to impress. He had just 18 touches and made only nine passes – seven of which were completed. His loan from Atletico Madrid could well be cut short in January given his struggles at Stamford Bridge.
Key Opta Facts
– Chelsea have beaten Watford in three consecutive league games at Vicarage Road for the first time.
– Watford have lost five of their seven Premier League games under Claudio Ranieri (W2), conceding 16 goals in total – an average of 2.3 per game.
– Chelsea have won five consecutive Premier League away games for the first time since November 2019, under Frank Lampard – a run that also included a 2-1 victory over Watford.
– Watford’s Emmanuel Dennis became the first Watford player to score in three consecutive Premier League games since Troy Deeney in February 2017.
– Mason Mount is Chelsea’s top goalscorer under Thomas Tuchel, becoming the first player to reach double figures in all competitions under the German.
Chelsea head to rivals West Ham for a derby at London Stadium, while Watford face another tough test with Manchester City visiting Vicarage Road.