Chelsea continued their unbeaten but less than impressive run under Guus Hiddink as they were held to a goalless draw by Watford at the Vicarage Road Stadium on Wednesday, leaving any hope of a top four finish hanging by a thread.
The draw leaves the struggling Premier League champions with 29 points from 24 games but they leapfrog West Bromwich Albion to 13th place on better goals difference.
Chelsea started brightly with Diego Costa, Oscar and Eden Hazard combining well early on to put the pressure on Watford but it was the Hornets that closest in the opening exchanges as Odion Ighalo received a clever knockdown from Troy Deeney, went past Kurt Zouma, only for John Terry to deflect for a corner.
Three minutes later, it was Watford on the front foot again as Ighalo and Deeney combined again on the edge of the Chelsea box before the former lays it out wide to Juan Carlos Paredes, whose cross was cleared away by the head of Kurt Zouma.
Moments later, at the other end, Willian did well to deliver a cross from the Chelsea right but Heurelho Gomes punched clear as Diego Costa looked to threaten in the box.
Watford continued to cause panic in the Chelsea penalty area as Ben Watson swung in a corner and Ighalo out-muscled Cesar Azpilcueta at the back post. The ball was loose momentarily but it landed safely in the gloves of Thibaut Courtois.
The Hornets continued to pile the pressure as in the 25th minute, Jose Holebas whipped in a fantastic cross from the Watford left. John Terry couldn’t climb high enough to make contact with the ball and Ighalo had a free header behind him.
The Nigerian striker just seemed to lose flight of the ball and didn’t connect at all. It was a great chance for the in-form forward.
Great movement from Diego Costa on 35 minutes as he lost Sebastian Prodl. Oscar picked out the striker’s run with a ball over the top which Costa heads into his path. The Spain international was held up by Craig Cathcart but he managed to turn and got a shot away which deflected just wide of the far post.
Meanwhile, just before the referee sounded the half-time whistle, Costa, never far from controversy, was involved in an off the ball incident with Juan Carlos Paredes. A melee ensued as Quique Sanchez Flores had a quiet word with the Chelsea striker on the touchline.
It was no more than a push to the floor from Costa and, in truth, Paredes’ reaction was pretty pathetic as he rolled around the floor holding his face. It resulted in the striker and Watford right back both receiving a yellow card.
The game resumed for the second half with both sides making efforts to gain the lead but it wasn’t happening as Watford, who had most of the chances, just failed to convert and Chelsea couldn’t do much about the fewer chances they created.
In the end, they will feel it was a game they should have won to climb up the table.