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Blues Brothers stand united

PICTURED: Antonio Conte

IN THE end it was just a solitary goal, but what a goal Alvaro Morata produced to power his header beyond the reach of David De Gea. Moments earlier, Davide Zappacosta appeared to be being sent messages to retreat to cover Chelsea's defence from his manager Antonio Conte. Thankfully he chose to ignore his manager on this occasion to put over a precision cross.

The flight was perfect for Morata who was close on the penalty spot but still with a lot to do. The Italian striker strained the sinews in his neck to head the ball back the way it had traveled and into the net. It was too good for De Gea who was beaten all ends up, and that proved to be the only telling moment of an enthralling affair at Stamford Bridge.

Despite having the combined attacking prowess of Romelu Lukaku, Marcus Rashford and later Anthony Martial, United rarely got going and not until the least ten minutes when Marouane Fellaini had been introduced twenty minutes earlier did Manchester United have a sustained sequence of attacks on Thibaut Courtois' goal.

It could have been so different for the visitors had Rashford headed in what was a free header from Ashley Young's cross on eight minutes.

Seemingly under pressure following their 3-0 Champions League loss at Roma, Antonio Conte deployed Tiemoue Bakayoko in a more advanced role. His miss from another Zappacosta cross was poor and the same player should also have done better from Morata's pass which was deflected for a corner.

It took until the 16th minute for under fire Romelu Lukaku to stir. His turn and shot had Courtois concerned but the Chelsea keeper pushed the ball clear for a smart save. Chelsea replied with Eden Hazard who forced a save from De Gea.

With the score goalless at the break, Morata's opener after 54 minutes set the tone for the second half. Bakayoko stole in as Fellaini tried to play across his back line, and hit wide when options were available. Chelsea seemed to be in charge as United struggled to get going despite the drive of former Blues' star Nemanja Matic.

Fellaini them muscled his way in at the right end but Courtois had the ball covered. Substitute Willian countered as a United attack floundered to feed Moratta. The Italian decided to take a touch but got tangled by his own legs.

An injury time free kick and Rashford hit over the bar as Chelsea held on to record another win over United.

"We played with great energy, with great passion and with great enthusiasm," Conte said. "It’s great for me, the players, the club, but above all it’s great for our fans, to breathe this energy, to breathe this passion, to breathe this enthusiasm.

"I saw a lot of positive things, not only in the tactical aspect but above all my players’ desire, their will to fight and help each other. When we play in this way it’s great. This was a massive game, and to win against Manchester United gives you more confidence, and gives you the right enthusiasm to understand that if we want, we can."

Jose Mourinho had words to say to Conte after last season's 4-0 humiliation at Stamford Bridge, and the two are seemingly still not on amicable terms. There was no handshake between the duo at the final whistle. Conte chose to go onto the pitch to congratulate his players, while Mourinho laster said he couldn't wait for him to return to the dugout area so he left.

Of the match, Mourinho said, "It was an even match. Both teams could win. The first to score would be in more defensive control and to win the match. The first half was really even. In the second half in the only period where they were on top of the game, they scored.

"It frustrates us to concede a goal in this situation. We lost ourselves after the goal emotionally. We found again the balance and desire in the last 15 to 20 minutes. It was all us. We had big chances to equalise but we couldn't."

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