Conte conquers the Mourinho Factor
Written By: Robert Halter
Chelsea were seeking to extend their unbeaten run against Manchester United to eleven games in all competitions, as Stamford Bridge welcomed back a previous manager and Red Devils boss, Jose Mourinho with the new Blues gaffer, Antonio Conte, looking to prove a point against their former mentor. It was a flying start for Chelsea and in the opening thirty seconds, Gary Cahill supplied Marcos Alonso, and from his long ball through, Daley Blind failed to track Pedro’s run, and it deceived United captain, Chris Smalling, as Pedro rounded David De Gea, before tucking the ball away. But Man U looked for a right to reply in the eighth minute, with an in swinging cross from the right by Antonio Valencia, to pick out an unmarked Zlatan Ibrahimovic, who put his header over in range of the target. In the fourteenth minute, Victor Moses combined with Pedro at a short corner, before Hazard drove the ball wide of the right post. But in the twentieth minute, the Blues forged further ahead from a Hazard corner, as the ball was knocked on by Nemanja Matic, and as the ball flicked off Valencia before rebounding off Ander Herrera, the captain in waiting, Gary Cahill riffled the ball into the net from just six yards out. In the twenty fifth minute, after Pedro dispossessed Blind, it took the left foot of De Gea to keep out Pedro’s strike as he tried to square the ball for Diego Costa in the box, and then within a minute De Gea’s outstretched leg pushed the ball away from the danger zone again after Hazard cut the ball in from the right, but was unable to get his cross over to Costa in a goal scoring position. But the Red Devils responded in the twenty seventh minute, as Thibaut Courtois dived at full stretch to his left, and forced away a well hit shot by Herrera from outside the area, before Courtois got back up to his feet and protected his near post to block the follow up shot by Jesse Lingard. Just before the half time break, from a ball over on the right by Valencia, a skied effort off the boot of Marcus Rashford, went over the upright. At the start of the second half, the Red Devils replaced Marouane Fellaini with Juan Mata and then also lost Eric Bailly to injury as Marcos Rojo took over. In the fifty eighth minute, an incisive pass by Herrera, gave space for Lingard, whose low drive was clawed away by Courtois, as he stooped down low to his left. In the sixty first minute, the Blues struck again, as Hazard started the move to N’Golo Kante, before Matic slid the ball through to Hazard, who slotted the ball past De Gea, into the right corner. Man U then switched Lingard with Anthony Martial, as they were left to chase a lost cause. It was to be a day to forget for the Red Devils as Kante put the icing on the cake in the seventieth minute, as after collecting a delicately placed flick off the heels of Pedro, weaving through a packed United defence, Kante waltzed past Smalling before producing a measured finish past a stranded De Gea. Further Blues reinforcements first saw Pedro replaced by Nathaniel Chalobah before Willian appeared for Hazard and Michy Batshuayi took over from Costa. In the eightieth minute, a theatrical stop by Courtois fended away a fierce strike by Ibrahimovic from a controlled pass by Mata. Chelsea manager, Conte then orchestrated the volume of the fans, as the Blues sound performance ended with a crescendo as Chalobah hit the cord before De Gea pulled the strings, from a Moses assist. But it was Courtois who had the final say with a majestic save to keep out a Rojo rocket, from a Mata and Herrera combination, as Chelsea put down the gauntlet with a 4-0 drubbing of Manchester United, to mark a fiftieth win for the Blues against the Red Devils.