December 23, 2017 / 6:09 PM / 3 months ago

Soccer-Chelsea boss Conte rues Morata's absence after draw

LONDON, Dec 23 (Reuters) - Alvaro Morata might owe his manager a goal for Christmas after his needless suspension robbed Chelsea’s attack of its clinical edge in a 0-0 draw with Everton at Goodison Park on Saturday.

Morata, Chelsea’s leading scorer with nine Premier League goals in his first season since joining from Real Madrid, picked up a yellow card for “over-celebrating” his stoppage time winner against Bournemouth in the League Cup on Wednesday.

It was the kind of booking that drives managers to distraction, especially as it was Morata’s fifth of the season which activated an automatic one-match ban.

Had Morata been on the pitch he may have converted one of the 25 goal attempts his side mustered, none of which breached Everton’s rearguard. The closest they actually came to a goal was when Ashley Williams headed against his own crossbar.

“Don’t forget our striker, Morata, was out and I think he’s very important because he’s our finisher,” said Chelsea manager Antonio Conte, whose reigning champions are now 16 points behind league leaders Manchester City despite winning eight of their last 11 league matches.

Keeper Jordan Pickford was Everton’s man of the match, saving his side numerous times as Eden Hazard, Pedro and Tiemoue Bakayoko all threatened for the visitors who enjoyed overwhelming territorial superiority.

“We hit the bar and the defender (Phil Jagielka) saved on the goal line so we are disappointed because we deserved to win and take the three points,” Conte said.

Despite his disappointment Conte was pleased with Chelsea’s performance against a rejuvenated Everton who are unbeaten in six games, five of them under new manager Sam Allardyce.

“We have to take the points against a team who, after the top six, I consider the best team in the league,” he said.

“We played away, against a good team, with great intensity and concentration and the defenders played very well.

“It’s a pity, but at the same time it was a really good performance and another clean sheet, but if you want to win this game you must score. We created chances to score 10 but we must be more clinical. We were also a bit unlucky.”

Morata will be back for Chelsea’s home match against Brighton and Hove Albion on Boxing Day. (Reporting by Martyn Herman; Editing by Rex Gowar)

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