Alvaro Morata excels while Romelu Lukaku flops
Antonio Conte can be said to have the last laugh as his Chelsea team defeated Jose Mourinho’s Manchester United side at Stamford Bridge, thanks to Alvaro Morata's winning goal earlier this month.
Jabs were thrown at Conte for missing out on signing Lukaku and for the sale of Nemanja Matic that followed, but Chelsea fans couldn’t have been happier as Morata’s strike settled whatever debate over the superiority between the two forwards and reignited the Blues chances to secure a top-four finish.
It was a much-anticipated match between the two clubs, with both sides looking for a win, most especially after the battle by the two coaches to sign either Morata or Romelu Lukaku for their respective clubs in the summer. It was a match that put the attention on the two forwards. While one lived up to expectations at his end, causing problems for the opponent's defence, his rival was far from that at the other end. Would it have turned out to be a different story had it turned out according to the original plans?
Mourinho needed a competent striker following the departure of Wayne Rooney and the season-ending injury to Zlatan Ibrahimovic at the end of last season and Conte also wanted a marquee forward after freezing Diego Costa out of his team. Lukaku, a former Chelsea player was expected to return to the Blues this summer while Mourinho was keen to add Morata to his ranks at Manchester United, but instead, Lukaku headed to Old Trafford while Morata made the move to Stamford Bridge. And the match couldn’t have come at a more appropriate time to compare the fortunes of the two attackers.
Prior the match, Morata had been in the shadow of Lukaku with the Belgian international hitting the ground running with 10 goals for his new employers in as many matches, though he failed to find the back of the net in their last five games. Morata, who hasn’t scored since September, has been criticized very early in his Chelsea career, however the Spanish striker, who cost less than the £75 million United paid Everton for Lukaku, outshone his rival and got the goal that put his side just a point behind United who lost more grounds to Manchester City in the title race.
While Lukaku barren run continues Morata ended his with a superb goal. But it was not just his fantastic header in the 55th minute that relegated Lukaku to the background between the two but also his overall performance which saw him winning six free-kicks with none to Lukaku and has now swung the accolades in favour of Morata.
In hindsight, Morata looks odds-on to end this season ahead of Lukaku, stats collated via WhoScored shows in 1080 minutes Premier League games for Manchester United, Lukaku has managed to score eight goals and just three assists while Morata on the other hand, in 812 minutes for Chelsea this season, has scored same eight goals, had one assists (four assists) bettered Lukaku in 10 appearances (1 substitute).
Lukaku arrived at Old Trafford with a tag that he has failed to remove from his career so far. He has faced criticism for always being anonymous in big games and that has continued at Manchester United where he fired blank in games against Liverpool, Tottenham and Chelsea, their matches against the top six so far this season.Though Mourinho came out in defence of his star striker, saying his summer signing is “untouchable”, it is obvious Lukaku still has to do more.
Unless this is changed, United definitely need a striker that can turn up in big games because taking points off your direct rivals remain vital to a title challenge.