Kante wins while Conte grins



N'Golo Kante was at the heart of Chelsea's midfield link-up play. PICTURE: GETTY IMAGES

Tim Harrison

By Tim Harrison

Welcome back, N'Golo Kante! It's been a bleak, listless October without you... but thank heavens you're fit again.

That was the gist of everybody’s conversation on the way back to Fulham Broadway after the Blues' 1-0 victory over Manchester United; a surprisingly open, oddly one-sided affair, considering Chelsea's dire display in Rome five days earlier.

The old midfield link-up play was back, with Kante at the heart of it.

Now, for the first time in living memory, an international break is actually welcome.

Chelsea's next match is away to West Brom on November 18, so Tony Conte - a huge grin on his face at the end of Sunday afternoon's win – has time to step off the treadmill and regroup.

Jose Mourinho's return to Stamford Bridge on fireworks night was, from his point of view, a bit of a damp squib.

United never really got going - well, not until the aerial threat of Marouane Fellaini was introduced after an hour.

Even then, Chelsea bossed the game, and should really have won by two or three goals.

With Tiemoue Bakayoko hyperactive, and Eden Hazard simply superb, the Blues got what proved to be the winner in the 55th minute. Cesar Azpilicueta provided the perfect forward pass, and Alvaro Morata rose to head home, with David de Gea rooted to the spot.

Morata's heading skills weren't trumpeted ahead of his £60million move to Chelsea in the summer, but they've become one of the most effective weapons in the armoury.

Andreas Christensen had an excellent game in central defence, in place of David Luiz, while the team as a whole were energised by little Kante's overdue return.

"This type of win is important for our confidence," said Conte after a game when the frosty relationship between the managers was underlined by the most perfunctory handshake before the match, and the complete absence of one afterwards.

But it is Conte who can now grin his way through this international break.

The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and unless specifically stated are not necessarily those of Hammersmith & Fulham Council.

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