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Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 19 April 2018

Conte backs Morata after Chelsea are held by 10-man Leicester City

Even when Leicester left-back Ben Chilwell was sent off midway through second half for two bookings, champions were unable to snatch winner

Chelsea manager Antonio Conte's tenure has come under some scrutiny in recent times. Peter Cziborra / Reuters
Chelsea manager Antonio Conte's tenure has come under some scrutiny in recent times. Peter Cziborra / Reuters

Antonio Conte came to the defence of Alvaro Morata as he blamed tiredness in his Chelsea squad for their record-breaking third goalless draw in a week yesterday against Leicester City.

The Premier League champions drew another blank as they were unable to find a way past 10-man Leicester, missing out on the chance to move up to second in the table in the process.

The stalemate came after last Saturday’s 0-0 draw at Championship side Norwich City in the FA Cup third round, which was then followed in midweek by another night of no goals as they drew the first leg of their League Cup semi-final with Arsenal.

It is the first time in the club’s history that they have played out three successive 0-0 results.

The draw leaves them 15 points adrift of leaders Manchester City, who play today at Liverpool, and Conte believed his side had suffered from having to play on Wednesday while Leicester had not been in action since last Saturday.

“I think we played with a lot of top players against Arsenal, and then again today against a very good team,” Conte told the BBC. “I think a lot of our players were tired.

“In the first half Leicester ran more than us, they played better than us. But we knew we were playing against a good opponent, maybe the worst opponent we could have played in this moment. We suffered a lot in the first half.”

Morata had a frustrating afternoon as Chelsea’s lone forward and he has not scored since December 26, a run of five matches without a goal.

But Conte felt the Spaniard was not at fault for his goals drying up, having netted 12 for them in all competitions already this season, and felt the issue ran across the team.

“I don’t think it is only Morata’s problem, also the other players, because we are not scoring goals, we are not conceding, but we are not creating chances,” Conte added.

Leicester had to play the final 22 minutes with 10 men after Ben Chilwell was sent off for two bookings, and their manager Claude Puel felt the incident had denied his side a chance of taking the three points.

“It was a good game for us, we showed a lot of quality, we played well, but if it were 11 v 11 I think we would have got the win,” he said.

Elsewhere yesterday, Watford manager Marco Silva defended Abdoulaye Doucoure’s controversial last-minute equaliser for his side in their 2-2 draw with Southampton, believing that it balanced out decisions that had gone against the Hertfordshire club earlier in the season.

Watford had trailed until Doucoure got on the end of substitute Troy Deeney’s flick on and diverted the ball into the net past Southampton goalkeeper Alex McCarthy, with the ball appearing to come off his arm.

Silva said: “This season we’ve had decisions go against us. I understand Southampton are unhappy like I was not one time, more than one time when the mistake is against us. It can happen.”

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Southampton manager Mauricio Pellegrino said: “I am sad, I didn’t see a team dominate the second half to score two goals. I never see this type of mistake in the Premier League before. To live this injustice is really hard.”

Crystal Palace continued their remarkable recovery under Roy Hodgson as they moved up to 12th in the table with a 1-0 victory over Burnley thanks to Bakary Sako’s goal.

Palace lost their first seven games of the season but are now five points clear of safety and Hodgson said: “We can look at the league table for a week or two without shivers running down our spine.”

West Bromwich Albion picked up their first win since August in the league as first-half goals from defenders Jonny Evans and Craig Dawson gave them a 2-0 triumph over Brighton and Hove Albion.

Swansea City remain bottom of the table as they drew 1-1 at Newcastle United.

Jordan Ayew’s header on the hour mark had given the basement side the lead, but that was cancelled out eight minutes later by Newcastle substitute Joselu’s low finish.