August 21, 2017 / 3:26 AM / a month ago

Soccer: Conte salutes his Chelsea fighters after battling display

Football Soccer - Premier League - Tottenham Hotspur vs Chelsea - London, Britain - August 20, 2017 Chelsea manager Antonio Conte and Tottenham manager Mauricio Pochettino Action Images via Reuters/Andrew Couldridge

LONDON (Reuters) - For all the talk of crisis at Stamford Bridge following last week’s meltdown against Burnley, Chelsea manager Antonio Conte was left saluting his side on Sunday after they edged Tottenham Hotspur 2-1 in a match they could just as easily have lost.

“I think I must be pleased,” said Conte, whose nine-man side were beaten 3-2 by Burnley in their opening match of the new Premier League season.

“I want to thank my players because they showed me great desire and heart and I saw today the fighters.”

The Italian was particularly pleased because the champions were without the suspended Cesc Fabregas and Gary Cahill, giving Tiemoue Bakayoko his debut and trusting Andreas Christensen at the heart of their defence.

But it was a couple of old hands in David Luiz and Marcos Alonso who stood out.

The Brazilian was pushed forward into midfield and had a hand in both goals. Chelsea made the breakthrough against the run of play on 23 minutes when Alonso thumped home a superb free kick from 20 metres after Dele Alli had fouled Luiz.

Football Soccer - Premier League - Tottenham Hotspur vs Chelsea - London, Britain - August 20, 2017 Chelsea manager Antonio Conte celebrates after the match Action Images via Reuters/Andrew Couldridge

But Luiz also stood strong when Spurs threatened to overrun Chelsea with the quickfire passing that served them so well last season.

“David played very well, it was an amazing performance from him,” said Conte.

Soccer Football - Premier League - Tottenham Hotspur vs Chelsea - London, Britain - August 20, 2017 Chelsea manager Antonio Conte celebrates after Marcos Alonso scored their second goal as Tottenham manager Mauricio Pochettino (R) looks dejected REUTERS/Dylan Martinez

“He played with great experience and personality, a point of reference for other players. But it is easy to forget we had four new players from last season and we played like we wanted to show we were champions.”

Conte again said the club were working towards strengthening the squad in the transfer window, with at least three arrivals expected.

“For us it is very important to be focused on ourself. We know a lot of teams have improved since last season,” he said.

“The club is trying to do its best in the transfer market but today I must be satisfied with my players because they gave me everything.”

Reporting by Neil Robinson, editing by Pritha Sarkar

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