A COMMANDING display from Antonio Conte’s Chelsea saw them clinch this crucial victory against a Manchester United side that were left to rue missed chances in an entertaining contest between these sides.
Alvaro Morata’s second-half headed effort was enough to relieve a little of the pressure that was building on Conte following some uneven results for the reigning Premier League champions.
The win leaves Chelsea fourth in the league heading into the international break.
“It’s an important victory,” said Conte. “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.”
The winning goal came on 55 minutes, and after a period of sustained pressure from the hosts.
Cesar Azpilicueta collected the ball in midfield, and with the opposition players standing off him, he picked out an unmarked Morata in the penalty area. The Spanish forward directed a looping header beyond goalkeeper David De Gea and into the corner of the goal.
Stamford Bridge erupted as Conte celebrated wildly with his coaching staff.
The defeat leaves second-placed Manchester United eight points behind their local rivals following Manchester City’s win earlier in the day.
“We are second, not sixth or seventh or eighth,” said United boss Jose Mourinho when asked about the margin between the sides. “Eight points in the Premier League is not the same as in other leagues. There are 18 teams more worried than us.”
Mourinho, who played down the lack of handshake between him and his opposite number at the end of the match, added: “The team that scored first would have probably won. They scored before us and were a lot more comfortable.”
Chelsea had already lost two matches at home this season, as many as the whole of the last campaign, when they went on to win the league in Conte’s first year in charge.
Coming into the match following a heavy midweek defeat in the Champions League against Roma, Chelsea fans would have wanted a response from their side.
They welcomed back the influential midfielder N’golo Kante after he missed six matches through injury. The Frenchman was in typically dominant form as part of a midfield that included the impressive Cesc Fabregas and Tiemoue Bakayoko, who had been pushed into a more offensive role.
Mourinho rung the changes shortly after they conceded the lead. On came Anthony Martial and Marouane Fellaini. Henrikh Mkhitaryan and Phil Jones gave way as the United boss looked to rescue something from a match. Jesse Lingard was on soon after too.
Bakayoko and Hazard had chances to put Chelsea further ahead as the match drifted towards its conclusion.
The visitors were not finished. Marcus Rashford came within inches of equalising with a powerful low shot but it flew wide of Courtois’s post. Moments later, Fellaini’s headed effort saw the Belgian goalkeeper pull off a fine save.
Chelsea hung on, however, to record just their first set of back-to-back league wins this season and another rare clean sheet.