LONDON (Reuters) – A last-minute goal from substitute Ross Barkley earned Chelsea a 2-1 win over already-relegated Watford on Sunday in a low-key but anxious end to a turbulent season for the London side.
Barkley, playing his 100th game for Chelsea, headed in a Reece James cross three minutes after Watford’s Dan Gosling had equalised for the Hornets.
It was a busy finish to an otherwise unremarkable end-of-term game. Germany’s Kai Havertz had put Chelsea ahead in the 11th minute when he ran in unmarked to meet a low cross from Brazilian winger Kenedy.
There were many empty seats at Stamford Bridge, with Chelsea operating under special licence because of British government sanctions imposed on departing Russian owner Roman Abramovich.
The result made no change to the Premier League table. Chelsea, whose 4.25-billion-pound ($5.2-billion) ownership deal with a U.S.-led consortium is still awaiting full approval, finished the season in third place.
Chelsea manager Thomas Tuchel said he hoped the takeover would be finalised very soon so they could buy and sell players again.
“At the moment we have a huge disadvantage,” he said. “We just have to be as quick as possible and right now our hands are tied and we cannot act.”
Tuchel said he had ideas about the kind of players Chelsea should sign. Chelsea will particularly need defenders, with both Antonio Rudiger and Andreas Christensen leaving.
He said competing next season would be “super tough”. “Manchester United will be in the race. Tottenham with Antonio Conte. Man City and Liverpool will make their squads bigger.
“This is the challenge in which we compete but at the moment, we have a disadvantage,” Tuchel added.
“We have clear ideas for the profiles and characteristics of the players, but it’s not like we put a name on the list and we get a player. You have to convince the players and speak to clubs.”
Los Angeles Dodgers part-owner Todd Boehly, who is fronting the consortium backed by Clearlake Capital, watched from the stands as Havertz also hit the crossbar at the end of the first half against Watford and Ziyech forced a fine second-half save from Daniel Bachmann.
Watford’s Kiko Femenia and Joao Pedro also had shots saved in a game where the biggest home cheers were reserved for the news that Manchester City had won the Premier League title, pipping Chelsea’s nemesis Liverpool.
Chelsea lost both the League Cup and FA Cup finals to Liverpool in the tightest finishes this season with both games going to penalties.
The London side did not finish without a trophy, however, having picked up the European Super Cup last August and the Club World Cup in February.
(Reporting by Clare Lovell; Editing by Hugh Lawson and Clare Fallon)