Edouard Mendy pulled off two great saves as Chelsea secured a 2-1 victory over already-relegated Watford in their final Premier League match of the season at Stamford Bridge on Sunday.
Chelsea were already assured of third place coming into the match against the Hornets, who will play Championship football next season, and coach Thomas Tuchel made a number of changes to his squad.
Morocco international Hakim Ziyech was among the beneficiaries of Tuchel’s changes as he was handed only his sixth league start of the season with Spanish midfielder Saul Niguez and Brazilian full-back Kenedy also getting rare starts.
After Kai Havertz had given Chelsea the lead in the 11th minute, Mendy had to be at his best to keep his side’s advantage as Kiko Femenia forced him into a brilliant save just after the half-hour mark.
The Blues though ended the first half in the ascendancy, as Mason Mount tested Watford goalkeeper Daniel Bachmann before only the crossbar stopped Havertz from grabbing both his and his side’s second.
After the break, Roy Hodgson’s men came back with vigour and almost restored parity through Joao Pedro, but Mendy was equal to his low shot.
The Senegal international ended the game with a rating of 6.84, having made the two saves while having a 100 per cent pass completion rate.
Mendy finished the season fourth in the Golden Glove race after keeping 14 clean sheets, one behind Tottenham Hotspur’s Hugo Lloris while Manchester City’s Ederson and Liverpool’s Alisson shared the award after managing 20.
After Mendy’s save, Chelsea soon regained control and went close through Ziyech and substitute Ross Barkley, who replaced Antonio Rudiger for what will be the Germany international’s last appearance for the club before his impending switch to Real Madrid.
Ziyech came close to scoring his fifth Premier League goal of the season after receiving the ball on the edge of the box before shooting through a crowd of players towards the bottom right corner, forcing Bachmann into a decent save.
The Moroccan, who played all 90 minutes, finished the game with an 82 per cent pass completion rate, having managed two shots and one dribble past his opponents.
Chelsea did not have it easy to the end though, against a Watford side that missed top scorer and Nigeria international Emmanuel Dennis, who has 10 goals in the 2021-22 season, and his Super Eagles team-mate midfielder Oghenekaro Etebo, both out with knocks.
Substitute Morocco international defender Adam Masina equalised five minutes from time but the hosts would have the last laugh, with Barkley getting on the end of Reece James’ clever cross to secure the win.
Hodgson had also rung the changes with Nigeria captain William Troost-Ekong among those dropped to the bench.
This was Chelsea’s sixth straight victory over Watford as they finished what had started as a successful season with 74 points, 19 behind champions Manchester City while the Hornets managed just 23 after losing 27 games while conceding 77 goals.