Judging by the red Ferrari he drives, Valon Behrami lives a gilded life. He also lives a charmed one.
He would have been the villain of the piece had Swansea equalised back in September after he was sent off. Instead, the spirit and resolve of his teammates ensured they held on for a 1-0 win and that everyone went home talking about Odion Ighalo’s goal and not his red card. He was let off the hook again this afternoon, his rash challenge leading to a penalty which Oscar, unbelievably and inexplicably, put over the bar. It was the reprieve of all reprieves for the tiggerish midfielder. Behrami’s teammates would not have been happy had his impetuosity, in fouling Eden Hazard, cost them their unbeaten run here.
Watford deserved at least a point and it says a lot about how far they have come in such a short space of time that they might be a tad disappointed not to claim all three. They are now halfway through the festive fixture list and have four points. Daunting festive schedule? What daunting fixture schedule?
This Watford side fear nobody and they go into Monday’s game knowing a win will draw them level on points with Tottenham Hotspur, their opponents at Vicarage Road.
Ineligible to play against his parent club, Nathan Ake will be back for that one but it speaks volumes for the restorative powers of Quique Sanchez Flores that he was able to get a tune here out of Jose Holebas, who was the shock inclusion at left-back in what was his first start since the defeat to Manchester City. He is accused of being a big-time player but he might just be a big-game player.
The Greece international slipped in seamlessly here and did not look like someone who hadn’t played competitive football for more than two months. Watford have become so well drilled he was accommodated easily.
Having worked with him at Atletico Madrid, Sanchez Flores would have had some insight into how to stop Diego Costa but knowing how to do it and actually doing it are two different things. The Spain international scored first and last, just past the half-hour mark and just after the hour, the first to put Chelsea in front and the second drew them level.
In between times, Troy Deeney converted nervelessly from the spot for his sixth of the season, after Ben Watson’s corner struck the masked Nemanja Matic on the arm, and then Odion Ighalo found the net for the fifth consecutive match and 13th time overall when his shot took a wicked deflection off Gary Cahill and wrong-footed Thibault Courtois. Watford were dreaming of a first win at Stamford Bridge since 1986 and a first come-from-behind win under Sanchez Flores.
Costa dashed that with his second and even a point looked in grave doubt when Behrami, on as a substitute for Almen Abdi, felled Hazard. He would have been the most relieved man in the ground when Oscar sent the penalty skying over the bar. But they say the harder you work, the luckier you get and this high-energy Watford side got a big break here.