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Álvaro Morata heads Chelsea to victory over Manchester United

Alvaro Morata scored his first goal since September as Chelsea deservedly beat Manchester United to move a point behind the Red Devils in the Premier League.

Alvaro Morata celebrates with team-mates Tiemoue Bakayoko, Cesar Azpilicueta and Davide Zappacosta after scoring
Alvaro Morata celebrates with team-mates Tiemoue Bakayoko, Cesar Azpilicueta and Davide Zappacosta after scoring

Morata escaped the attentions of United’s defenders to find yards of space and beat goalkeeper David de Gea from Cesar Azpilicueta’s cross in the 55th minute.

It was another unproductive away day for United and manager Jose Mourinho after a goalless draw at Liverpool and loss to Huddersfield Town, leaving them eight points adrift of leaders Manchester City, who beat Arsenal 3-1 earlier in the day.

United, with striker Romelu Lukaku subdued, only mounted serious pressure after Morata scored for Chelsea, with Marcus Rashford coming close twice and substitute Marouane Fellaini forcing a save from Thibaut Courtois.

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And, after the briefest of handshakes between the managers before kick-off, there was no repeat at the final whistle as Antonio Conte celebrated a crucial victory that will help to silence the noise surrounding his position as Chelsea manager.

It was Mourinho’s third straight loss at Stamford Bridge since he became United manager.

The antipathy between Conte and Mourinho has been barely disguised, and the pair exchanged the most cursory of handshakes before kick-off.

And a measure of just how much this win meant to Conte in both a footballing and personal context could be seen in just how fired up he was throughout.

The Italian was lectured by referee Anthony Taylor for his touchline antics, was seen brandishing an imaginary yellow card, and was almost bursting out of his coat in celebration at the final whistle.

After striding on to the pitch at the full-time whistle to congratulate his players, he punched the air to all four sides of Stamford Bridge, then pumped his fist against his chest.

Conte’s position at Chelsea has been the subject of much conjecture for most of this season, and he was clearly hurt by the manner of his side’s Champions League defeat by Roma in midweek, but he got an instant response against United and his old adversary Mourinho.

Chelsea’s win will hardly have leaders Manchester City breaking into a cold sweat, but this was a victory Conte desperately needed.

Asked about the lack of a handshake with Mourinho at the end of the game, he told Sky Sports: “It’s not important. It’s important to win the game.

“You have to have the respect on the pitch not outside the pitch.” BBC Sport