MADRID (Reuters) - Chelsea manager Antonio Conte praised striker Michy Batshuayi for his patience and commitment after the Belgian again proved his knack for scoring decisive goals by striking a last gasp winner to beat Atletico Madrid 2-1 in the Champions League on Wednesday.
The Belgian international has struggled overall to adapt to Chelsea since his 40 million euro ($46.99 million) move from Marseille in 2016 but has scored three crucial goals for the club.
Last season he came off the bench to score the only goal at West Bromwich Albion which clinched the Premier League, and earlier that campaign hit the equaliser in a late 2-1 win at Watford which set Chelsea on the path to their title win.
“It’s a very important goal for Michy, don’t forget he is another young player and last season he struggled a lot to understand the league,” Conte told a news conference.
“I think he’s improving and his commitment has been very good during the transition. He has a lot of room for improvement and he has to continue to work in this way because every time you have the chance to play you must respond.”
The 23-year-old made only one Premier League start last campaign and has only been awarded one starting berth so far in the league this season, even with Diego Costa being excluded from the team before rejoining Atletico.
Alvaro Morata, by contrast, has made a flying start to life at Chelsea since moving from Real Madrid and cancelled out Antoine Griezmann’s penalty opener to put the visitors level in the second half, netting for the seventh time this season.
The Spaniard squandered a glorious chance to win the game when he found himself through on goal against Jan Oblak, however. He was replaced by Batshuayi, who buried Marcos Alonso’s cutback with the last kick of the game to score a fifth goal in six appearances, only three of them starts.
“For a striker scoring is very important for your confidence,” added Conte, who said the Belgian’s physique gave him the opportunity to add something extra from the bench.
“And for me it’s important to make him understand that he is on the right path. I want this type of player, with great athleticism, to give me the possibility to make changes game by game.”
Chelsea winger Eden Hazard added: “Michy scores every time he’s on the field. He can score every time. I‘m so happy for him.”
Reporting by Richard Martin; editing by Rex Gowar