Morata goal drought ends, Chelsea beats Man United 1-0



AP Global Soccer Writer

LONDON (AP) – Alvaro Morata ended a six-game goal drought with a second-half header Sunday, giving Chelsea a 1-0 victory over Manchester United in the Premier League on a miserable return to Stamford Bridge for Jose Mourinho.

United heads into the international break still second but now eight points behind leader Manchester City, which beat Arsenal 3-1.

“We are worried,” Mourinho said. “But there are 18 teams more worried than us because we are second.”

But United was outplayed by the technically superior Chelsea, which instantly recovered from a debilitating loss at Roma in the Champions League with a spirited performance that took the champions a point behind Mourinho’s side in fourth place.

The goal was gifted in the 55th minute by the United defense, but it also owed much to Cesar Azpilicueta’s vision and precision.

Morata peeled away from defender Eric Bailly and the striker was completely unmarked 12 yard (meters) from goal when he met Azpilicueta’s pinpoint cross with a powerful looping header.

No combination has been more fruitful in the Premier League this season, with Azpilicueta also providing the assist for four of Morata’s previous six goals in the competition.

Morata was only signed by Chelsea in the offseason because Romelu Lukaku opted to sign for United rather than rejoining the Premier League champions from Everton. But while Lukaku has now gone a seventh game in all competitions without scoring, Morata’s goal famine is over.

It lifted the sense of strife surrounding Antonio Conte that has grown as his Chelsea side has failed to win its last two Champions League games.

Chelsea was transformed from the disorganized team that was picked apart so easily in Rome, with an assertive start against United.

Tiemoue Bakayoko had an early chance to put the hosts in front but missed the target, United goalkeeper David De Gea denied Eden Hazard and Morata lacked power with a strike before half time.

But Chelsea was getting closer, overrunning United in midfield with stability restored by N’Golo Kante returning from six games on the sidelines with a hamstring injury.

Within two minutes of Hazard being again thwarted by De Gea, United was carved open as Morata scored.

But it was an anxious ending for Chelsea, with the three points preserved with a minute to go when Thibaut Courtois produced a close-range save from Marouane Fellaini.

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