Chelsea have started to gain momentum now in the season, after beating Manchester United 1-0 at home to make it three wins on the trot.
At Stamford Bridge on Sunday, Antonio Conte had to get his team to bounce back after a disappointing midweek loss in the Champions League to Roma. And in a quick paced open game, Chelsea managed to hang on to Alvaro Morata’s solitary headed goal to earn three points for the hosts.
Morata himself was in the thick of the action in as early as the eighth minute when he challenged Phil Jones during a Chelsea move. The English defender inadvertently turned the ball into his own net, only for referee Anthony Taylor to adjudge that Morata had pushed Jones as the move built up.
United too started to make their way to the Chelsea goal, with Marcus Rashford getting United’s first chance at goal. Only the 20-year-old headed Ashley Young’s meticulous cross just over the bar.
Both the teams pushed each other, with the likes of Tiemoue Bakayoko and Romelu Lukaku trading shots at goal, but to no avail. Chelsea, however, was more in control of the middle of the park, mainly due to the return of their midfield anchor N’Golo Kante. The Frenchman had missed six games for the club owing to a hamstring injury, but on the night provided a sense of stability that enabled the frontline to push forward.
Chelsea, who have now lost just one of their last 16 matches to United at Stamford Bridge, made the breakthrough in the 55th minute. Defender Cesar Azpilicueta carried the ball down the right flank till he played a diagonal cross to the Spaniard lurking in the United box. Morata rose smartly and headed past De Gea to score the only goal of the match.
Jose Mourniho, on his return to Stamford Bridge, responded by sending on Anthony Martial and Marouane Fellaini to bolster the visitors’ frontline. Rashford though had another flash at goal from the edge of the box but his shot fizzed past the post. Fellaini too had a chance, towards the end of the game, when he chested down masterfully, but his strike at goal was well saved by Thibaut Courtois in the Chelsea goal.
The win now puts the Blues on 22 points after 11 games, just one adrift of United. The Red Devils meanwhile stay in the second position, but the gap between themselves and table toppers Manchester City now extends to eight points.