So often Alvaro Morata has had a haunted, hunted look to him, struggling to cope with the Premier League it seems. But the Chelsea striker scored two predatory goals to beat Crystal Palace on Sunday and lift his unbeaten side up to second in the table.
Morata showed a killer’s ability even if he should have had a hat-trick as, in the dying seconds, he unwisely attempted to chip Palace goalkeeper Wayne Hennessey when clean through on goal. It was a flaky choice and Hennessey easily saved.
Well, Rome was not built in a day Maurizio Sarri, Chelsea’s Italian head coach may well have muttered to himself in between chewing on those cigarette butts as is his wont on the touchline. But this was better from Morata and a testimony to why Chelsea hired Sarri: he works hard to improve players. Players he already has. Sarri also does not sugar-coat it.
Even so, Chelsea, were not at their threatening best until Eden Hazard came on as a second-half substitute, having recovered from his back problem.
There is no truth to the rumor that the injury was caused by Hazard having to carry Chelsea, but there is no denying they are a different, less potent team without him. His mere presence distracts opponents. He makes them nervous.
It is now four league goals for Morata in as many games – one more than he achieved in his previous 23 appearances. Now he has to sustain that. Afterward, Sarri was asked to compare Morata to previous Chelsea strikers, such as Didier Drogba, but he chuckled as he said that there was no real comparison, even if the Spaniard can become a top striker.
The imperial home had set up as a 4-4-2, with the hazardous Wilfried Zaha and Andros Townsend as their strikers, and it was the last who finished an especially worked night out a target from the get-go in the second half. David Luiz was drawn towards the ball and has gotten out as Townsend played a sharp one-two and ran onto the entry from James McArthur before pounding a low right-footed shot across over Kepa Arrizabalaga and into the net.
By then Sarri had authoritatively sent Hazard and Mateo Kovacic, with Ross Barkley engaging, to warm up as first Zaha and thereafter Max Meyer went close. The Chelsea coordinate quickly proceeded. Before that Luiz had met a Willian free-kick to constrain a quick extra from Hennessey.
It was from a comparative position that Hazard took another free-kick, which was allowed by Tomkins and Mamadou Sakho to experience to Morata past the far post. He chested it down and finished well, past Hennessey and into the opposite corner, to restore Chelsea’s lead.
Mansion was again to fault as Chelsea killed the delight off. Pedro was allowed to snare on to Marcos Alonso’s left-wing cross – passed on under no weight – to control a excellent first-time, side-footed shot past Hennessey.
It was at precisely that point an issue of whether Chelsea would score logically and Morata should have done as they countered from a Palace corner in harm time. Teed up by Hazard, he helped it, scooping the ball into Hennessey’s hands. Regardless, his dedication was basic, his goals accomplished – paying little respect to whether in spite of all that he had that pursued look toward the end because of his miss.