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Chelsea dent Manchester United title hopes with win at Stamford Bridge

Chelsea have closed the gap on Premier League leaders Manchester City back to nine points courtesy of a 1-0 win over Manchester United at Stamford Bridge.

Alvaro Morata ended a six-game drought to score the only goal of the game in West London as Jose Mourinho’s latest return to the Bridge ended in defeat, leaving United now eight points adrift of their local rivals.

Chelsea remain in fourth place following the win courtesy of Tottenham Hotspur’s victory over Crystal Palace earlier in the day, but they are now only one point behind Spurs and second-placed United.

The hosts were able to name N’Golo Kante in their starting lineup following his recovery from a hamstring injury, and the midfielder – who scored in both of Chelsea’s home games against United last season – was the first to go for goal when he forced an early stop from David de Gea.

There was nothing De Gea could do to prevent the ball from flying past him and into the top corner five minutes later when Phil Jones skewed an attempted clearance into his own net, but referee Anthony Taylor was quick to rule the goal out having adjudged Morata to have pushed the United defender.

It was an exciting start to the contest, though, in contrast to what Mourinho often provides when visiting a top-six rival, and United should have taken the lead in the eighth minute when Marcus Rashford latched on to Ashley Young’s cross but nodded his header over the crossbar from close range.

Chelsea responded with a big chance of their own shortly afterwards, but Tiemoue Bakayoko got his finish all wrong after Davide Zappacosta’s cross made it all the way through to the midfielder.

Bakayoko flashed a long-range drive wide of the target moments later before Romelu Lukaku had his first sight of goal, spinning away from Andreas Christensen and seeing a curling low strike parried away by Thibaut Courtois.

De Gea was the busier of the two goalkeepers in the first half, though, and the Spaniard was needed to save a stinging Eden Hazard drive in the 19th minute before Cesc Fabregas could only smuggle the rebound into the side-netting.

Morata and Zappacosta then forced more routine saves from De Gea with tame efforts before Christensen squandered one final big chance of the first half when he escaped his marker from a corner but saw the ball come off his shoulder and loop over the crossbar.

The hosts quickly picked up where they left off at the start of the second half, with Morata firing one shot wide before Hazard could only sweep a finish straight at De Gea having been left unmarked inside the penalty area.

The opening goal did finally arrive 10 minutes after the restart when Cesar Azpilicueta was given space to pick out a cross to an unmarked Morata, who left De Gea rooted to the spot with a fine header which nestled into the corner.

There was minimal reply from United after falling behind as Chelsea continued to dominate the midfield battle, and Bakayoko typified that when he stole the ball off Marouane Fellaini in a dangerous area only to again miss the target when he should have done better.

De Gea was then needed to deny Hazard and Gary Cahill as Chelsea went in search of a two-goal cushion, and it looked as though the failure to add to their advantage could come back to haunt them when United started to apply the pressure late on.

Rashford came close to rescuing a point for the visitors with a half-volley from the edge of the box which flew narrowly wide before Fellaini came close himself, chesting a long ball down in the area but scuffing his finish.

Morata had the chance to put the game to bed in stoppage time when he was released clean through on goal on the counter-attack, but he wasted the opportunity and United were quickly back on the front foot looking to punish the goalscorer.

There was one final chance for them to do exactly that when Nemanja Matic won a free kick against his former club, but Rashford’s powerful strike deflected off the wall and fizzed narrowly over as Chelsea held out for all three points.

The champions have now recorded three consecutive home wins for the first time this season, whereas United fall to only their second defeat from their last 17 outings across all competitions and have now lost their last four Premier League away games immediately after a European match.

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