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Antonio Conte praises Alvaro Morata’s character after striker ends goal drought

Morata scored for the first time since December.

Antonio Conte praised the character of his Chelsea players and striker Alvaro Morata after Sunday’s FA Cup quarter-final win at Leicester.

Striker Morata ended a 13-game run without a goal with his first since Boxing Day in a 2-1 win secured by Pedro’s extra-time header. The Blues will face Southampton in next month’s semi-final.

Conte’s satisfaction was because Chelsea lost 3-0 at Barcelona on Wednesday to exit the Champions League, meaning the FA Cup is their last remaining chance of silverware this season.

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Leicester City v Chelsea – Emirates FA Cup – Quarter Final – King Power Stadium

And his side responded from conceding to Jamie Vardy 14 minutes from the end of normal time to advance.

“We must be pleased for the character we showed in this game against a really good team,” Conte said.

“After a game in Champions League it wasn’t easy for us to play 120 minutes in this way.

“Tonight we fought a lot against Leicester. We showed great desire, great will.

“For Alvaro it was very important to score. I’m very pleased with his performance.

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Alvaro Morata scores his first goal of 2018

“He played a very good game, he showed great character, he showed to be stronger. I think this goal will be very important for the future for us.”

Like Morata, Tiemoue Bakayoko started. Bakayoko’s performance was poor, but Conte insisted he was substituted for Cesc Fabregas at half-time only because he had been booked.

“In a game like this you have to try to avoid a second yellow card,” Conte added.

Willian and Andreas Christensen were replaced in extra-time due to fatigue after their midweek exertions and Pedro made the most of his opportunity, converting N’Golo Kante’s cross.

Conte added: “It’s great for him, great for the team. Pedro is another player who puts in every moment everything for the team, if he starts the game or if he comes in during the game. I’m very happy for him.”

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Pedro heads in the winning goal

Chelsea succeeded Leicester as Premier League champions last term and also reached the FA Cup final, losing to Arsenal at the end of Conte’s first season in charge.

The omens appear good. They had beaten Leicester in all five prior FA Cup meetings and the last three times – in 1997, 2000 and 2012 – they went on to lift the trophy.

Conte refused to look ahead to a second successive FA Cup final at Wembley.

He added: “Every game is very difficult, it will be very difficult against Southampton.

“Last season it was a pity to lose the final, (not) to celebrate the double with the players.

“This season our target is to try to reach the final again. We want to change the final result.”

Foxes boss Claude Puel felt aggrieved by the result after his side’s performance.

Leicester complained at the end to referee Craig Pawson, apparently upset at perceived time-wasting by Chelsea and the lack of additional time.

Puel said: “It’s a big disappointment. We played very well today against a good team.

“We deserved a fairer result at the end. It’s harsh for my squad because they gave their best.”

Pedro out-jumped Ben Chilwell and Marc Albrighton to score a goal Kasper Schmeichel might have prevented had the goalkeeper not come off his line.

“We cannot blame Kasper for the second goal. He’s been fantastic since the beginning, and made fantastic saves in the game,” Puel added.

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