Belfast Telegraph

World Cup 2018

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Chelsea boss Antonio Conte hails Alvaro Morata's impact after hat-trick at Stoke

Alvaro Morata earned the praise of his manager after he continued to fill the boots of Diego Costa with a hat-trick in Chelsea's 4-0 victory at Stoke.

Morata, the club-record signing bought to replace Costa, was on the scoresheet again early on before Pedro extended the lead on the half-hour mark.

The Spanish striker then rounded off the win with two goals in the final quarter-hour to take his Premier League tally this season to six.

Relations between Costa and Chelsea manager Antonio Conte began to deteriorate in January when the striker reportedly had his head turned by a big-money offer from the Chinese Super League, which soon evaporated.

It was further strained over the summer with the player - having initially been granted an additional summer break after being told he could leave the club - ending up in exile in Brazil.

On Thursday a deal was agreed for Costa to return to his former club Atletico Madrid and that move should be finalised next week.

Morata has so far proved to be an able successor and Conte said: " I think Alvaro played very well and he took his goals very well, which for a striker is very important.

"I am pleased with the team also because it means we are creating chances for our strikers to take.

"I am pleased for his performance and pleased for the performance of the team. It is not easy to win away against Stoke and I remember we struggled here last season but won at the end. This game is always difficult."

Morata was also on target in Chelsea's last away game in a 2-1 success against Leicester.

At the King Power Stadium the club was forced to condemn fans who sang an anti-Semitic song in adulation of the 24-year-old aimed at fierce rivals Tottenham.

On Saturday supporters could be heard to have changed the words of the chant to "Alvaro, Alvaro. He comes from sunny Spain, he's better than Harry Kane," and this pleased Conte.

"Our fans were fantastic and don't forget in this stadium the crowd push a lot," he said.

"I want to thank our fans. They help a lot the team today. It was a good chant. I am pleased."

Chelsea's head of communications and public affairs Steve Atkins added: " We spoke to Alvaro after the game and he is grateful also that they have changed the words."

Stoke manager Mark Hughes went into the match short of central defenders with Kurt Zouma, on loan from Chelsea, ineligible and Ryan Shawcross, Geoff Cameron and Kevin Wimmer all injured.

Hughes said: "When you go up against a side of the quality of Chelsea, or any side in fairness, you've got to make sure you don't have catastrophic defensive moments and we had at least three, which is always going to make it difficult.

"There were extenuating circumstances given our difficulties in terms of available personnel at the back and that's the difficulty we had to deal with.

"For the most part I felt we picked ourselves up after the worst start possible and kept ourselves in the game up until about the 75-minute mark."

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