Alvaro Morata header edges Chelsea to victory over United

Alvaro Morata scored his first goal since September for Chelsea to defeat Manchester United by 1-0 and move the Blues to one point behind the Red Devils in the Premier League.

Morata went unnoticed into the space between United’s centre-halves with Chris Smalling drawn towards Tiemoue Bakayoko’s run, to plant his header beyond a static David de Gea.

In comparison, Romelu Lukaku, Morata’s counterpart at United, was subdued and quiet throughout, and did not have a single touch inside the Chelsea area.

Both United and Chelsea were in a struggle for the Belgian in the summer, with United coming out on top with his signature in a £90m deal after supposedly long-standing interest from his former club Chelsea, while Chelsea coach Antonio Conte insisted he had got the man he wanted all along when he completed a £65m move for Morata.

However, it was Morata who will prove himself in this game by leading Chelsea forward with pace and energy and making the game’s decisive contribution with a towering header after being given far too much space by the United defence.

“It’s an important victory,” Conte said after the game. “When you play against Manchester United it’s always a massive game. We know very well this team is very strong. This type of win is important for our confidence. We showed great desire and passion to win this kind of game.”

“We can win or lose but our spirit must be this. Last season our spirit was in every game — we started this season with a lot of problems. We were up and down. This game showed if we want, we can.”

The defeat summed up another miserable week for United coach Jose Mourinho, whose homecoming at Chelsea was ruined for the third time in a game that follows a goalless draw at Liverpool and a loss to Huddersfield Town. The Portuguese, who was Chelsea manager on two different spells, lost 4-0 against his former club in the Premier League and was inflicted 1-0 defeat in the quarter-final of the FA Cup.

Indeed, the visitors had only pressured the hosts after Morata scored for Chelsea, with Marcus Rashford coming close with a snapshot and a free-kick, while substitute Marouane Fellaini forced a save from Thibaut Courtois.

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