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Thursday 21 September 2017

A champion show from the blues

Chelsea 4 Watford 3

Chelsea players lift manager Antonio Conte in the air following their 4-3 Premier League win over Watford at Stamford Bridge last night. Photo: Reuters
Chelsea players lift manager Antonio Conte in the air following their 4-3 Premier League win over Watford at Stamford Bridge last night. Photo: Reuters

John Terry scored for a 17th successive Premier League season as champions Chelsea beat Watford 4-3 courtesy of Cesc Fabregas' late strike.

Typically in the final days of Terry's storied Chelsea career, the captain was the night's main protagonist as Watford suffered a fifth straight loss and the Blues won for a 14th time in 15 home games and celebrated amid blue and silver streamers.

Win against Sunderland on Sunday, when the Premier League trophy will be presented, and Chelsea will become the first club to record 30 victories in a 38-game season.

Terry made his 716th Chelsea appearance and likely his penultimate one at Stamford Bridge, scoring his 67th goal.

The 36-year-old defender will leave Chelsea this summer after 22 years and will also be expected to play on Sunday when he will lift a fifth championship title and 15th major honour.

Conte celebrates with Cesc Fabregas after he scored the decisive goal at the Bridge. Photo: Reuters
Conte celebrates with Cesc Fabregas after he scored the decisive goal at the Bridge. Photo: Reuters

A 16th will be sought in the May 27 FA Cup final with Arsenal, when Antonio Conte will bid to end his first season as head coach with the double.

Terry was named to start in the league for the first time since September 11 against Swansea and began a first game since the February 18 FA Cup win at Wolves.

There was an element of good fortune about his goal as the ball dropped kindly for Terry in the area, he struck it with his shin and it went in off the post.

Two minutes later Terry gifted Watford a rare away goal scored by Etienne Capoue, but Cesar Azpilicueta's crisp drive restored the Blues' lead. Michy Batshuayi, who scored the title-clinching goal at West Brom, put Chelsea's 3-1 up, but Daryl Janmaat pulled a goal back with a superb strike.

And substitute Stefano Okaka equalised after holding off Terry before Fabregas' decisive 88th-minute strike.

Sebastian Prodl was sent off for a second bookable offence in the second minute of stoppage time as Watford finished the contest with 10 men in a bad tempered conclusion.

For the third time in as many seasons there was a guard of honour for the champions at Stamford Bridge.

A year to the day since Leicester were congratulated, Watford applauded the Blues in a jubilant atmosphere.

Batshauyi made his first Premier League start after 18 substitute appearances as one of nine changes for Chelsea. Only Eden Hazard and Cesar Azpilicueta were retained.

Manager Antonio Conte applauded all sides of the ground as chants of "Antonio, Antonio" bellowed around Stamford Bridge in the opening minute.

This was an opportunity for the likes of Kurt Zouma, Nathaniel Chalobah, Nathan Ake, Kenedy and Batshuayi to show Conte that they can perform next season, when European football will force the Italian to make changes more frequently.

Striker Diego Costa was on the substitutes' bench and spotted in the media room adjacent to the tunnel at half-time, perusing the cheese board.

Despite the title having been secured and the relaxed attitude of some, Conte was as animated as ever in his technical area. He appeared frustrated at his players for relinquishing possession too easily.

However, he was smiling again when Fabregas swept the ball home from the edge of the area for Chelsea's winner.

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