Emotional Morata shows signs of a return to form

Chelsea striker Alvaro Morata rueing a miss against Hungarian champions Vidi in the Europa League Group L match at Stamford Bridge on Thursday. But the Spaniard made amends in the 70th minute when he scored to give the Blues a 1-0 win.
Chelsea striker Alvaro Morata rueing a miss against Hungarian champions Vidi in the Europa League Group L match at Stamford Bridge on Thursday. But the Spaniard made amends in the 70th minute when he scored to give the Blues a 1-0 win.PHOTOS: REUTERS
Chelsea striker Alvaro Morata (above) rueing a miss against Hungarian champions Vidi in the Europa League Group L match at Stamford Bridge on Thursday. But the Spaniard made amends in the 70th minute when he scored to give the Blues a 1-0 win.
Chelsea striker Alvaro Morata (above) rueing a miss against Hungarian champions Vidi in the Europa League Group L match at Stamford Bridge on Thursday. But the Spaniard made amends in the 70th minute when he scored to give the Blues a 1-0 win.PHOTOS: REUTERS

LONDON • Chelsea striker Alvaro Morata has not lived up to expectations since arriving for a then-club-record fee last summer and suffered the consequences - losing his Spain World Cup place and his spot in the Chelsea starting XI to Olivier Giroud this season.

But there appears to be light at the end of the tunnel, with the £60 million (S$108 million) player winning a recall to the national team on Thursday for the Wales and England friendlies.

Hours later, he was visibly emotional as his 70th-minute winner helped the Blues edge past Hungarian champions Vidi 1-0 in the Europa League Group L tie - just his second in 10 games.

In customary fashion, he wasted a fine chance in the first half at Stamford Bridge, but atoned for it with a sharp finish.

And Chelsea coach Maurizio Sarri was happy to see Morata wear his heart on his sleeve.

"If after a goal he wants to cry, I hope to see him cry very often," the Italian said of the 25-year-old, whose goal-shy performances, including a 13-game goal-less run led to his exclusion from world football's showpiece in Russia this summer.

"It's very important for him to score. I think it's very important for him to play a very good match. He played a very good match."

Chelsea head Group L with a maximum six points with Greece's Paok level on three points alongside Belarusian outfit Bate.

Elsewhere, Arsenal had to undertake their longest away trip for a competitive fixture, flying 4,000km to Baku, Azerbaijan. But the Gunners showed little signs of jet lag as they extended their winning run to eight matches with a 3-0 victory over Qarabag.

Greek defender Sokratis Papastathopoulos bundled in a Nacho Monreal header on four minutes for his maiden Arsenal goal since signing from Borussia Dortmund in the summer.

Arsenal academy graduate Emile Smith Rowe and French midfielder Matteo Guendouzi, another close-season transfer, also scored their first goals for the club.

"It was a difficult game. We played an away game against a strong opponent," said Arsenal boss Unai Emery, whose side lead Sporting Lisbon on goal difference at the top of Group E with six points. "We had to try a lot today. However, in the end, the desired result was achieved."

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 06, 2018, with the headline 'Emotional Morata shows signs of a return to form'. Print Edition | Subscribe