LONDON, Feb 4, (AFP): Chelsea captain John Terry began his long goodbye by marshalling his defence to a clean sheet in a 0-0 draw at Watford in the Premier League.
Making his first appearance since announcing on Sunday that he has not been offered a new contract, Terry effectively shackled Watford’s livewire striker Odion Ighalo as Chelsea extended their unbeaten run of games under interim manager Guus Hiddink to nine in all competitions.
Watford goalkeeper Heurelho Gomes was the game’s stand-out player, though, producing several second-half saves to restrict Chelsea to a rise in the table of just one place to 13th.
Hiddink spoke out in defence of Diego Costa after the Chelsea striker was booked for a clash with Juan Carlos Paredes late in the first half, having earlier shoved Sebastian Prodl to the ground.
“It was clear and in front of our eyes — Costa was punched in the back and then he stumbled and brought his hands to his head,” said the Dutchman.
“I was trying to protect my player because he was provoked. This league is physical, when you see our central defenders and our opponents’ central defenders.
“He (Costa) likes to go physical, but he must do within the rules. Some times players get physical and he has to get used to that.”
The result left Quique Sanchez Flores’s Watford four points above Chelsea in ninth.
After a watchful start from both sides, Watford began to assert themselves midway through the first half, with Ighalo squandering a couple of chances and Etienne Capoue forcing Thibaut Courtois to save at his near post.
Costa threatened for Chelsea in the 32nd minute, spinning Craig Cathcart and lashing a left-foot shot across goal, while Oscar shot narrowly wide from Costa’s pass 10 minutes into the second half.
Chelsea looked the team more likely to score as the game wore on, but Gomes parried from Oscar and Branislav Ivanovic, who had been teed up by substitute Eden Hazard.
Gomes saved his best for last, leaping to his right in the 88th minute to claw a header from Costa away from beneath the crossbar.
Chelsea are now unbeaten in eight league games since the sacking of Jose Mourinho. They host Manchester United on Sunday.
The day’s other game saw Everton snap a run of five league matches without victory by beating relegation-threatened Newcastle United 3-0 at Goodison Park.
Aaron Lennon opened the scoring in the 23rd minute, gathering Tom Cleverley’s pass from the left and drilling a low shot into the bottom corner.
Ross Barkley sealed victory with a pair of late penalties, the first after Rolando Aarons tripped Lennon, the second — a stoppage-time ‘Panenka’ — after Jamaal Lascelles had been sent off for bringing him down.
Everton manager Roberto Martinez described Barkley, who was playing his 100th league game at the age of 22, as a “phenomenal footballer” and a “phenomenal person”.
“He took responsibility with both penalties and showed how he is an assured, technical footballer,” the Spaniard added.
Martinez’s men climb one place to 11th, while Newcastle, who handed a debut to £12 million ($17.5 million, 15.8 million euros) new signing Andros Townsend, remain in the relegation zone.
“It’s not acceptable,” said Newcastle manager Steve McClaren. “We have to put this one behind us and move on.”