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Alvaro Morata's night of frustration at Burnley could cost Chelsea striker FA Cup semi-final spot
Last Updated: 20/04/18 11:11am
Alvaro Morata's misses didn't prove costly to Chelsea in the end at Burnley. But will they cost the struggling Spain striker a spot in the FA Cup semi-final XI against Southampton on Sunday?
Boss Antonio Conte put Morata alongside Olivier Giroud at Turf Moor. It was the first time Chelsea had started two out-and-out strikers since August 2011, when Didier Drogba and Fernando Torres took on Norwich.
Just like in that 3-1 win under Andre Villas-Boas, both frontmen failed to make it onto the scoresheet on Thursday - but if this was an audition for a leading role against the Saints, Giroud should be warming up for a Wembley runout.
Sunday's fixture is vital to Chelsea's season. Their last shot at silverware. And Morata's form must be a concern to Conte.
He had three shots in all. Three really good chances to add to his disappointing tally of one Premier League goal in 11 games since Boxing Day. And three times he should have done better.
The first two openings were laid on by his strike partner Giroud, but Morata over-ran his first opportunity, eventually shooting at goalkeeper Nick Pope from a tight angle on 11 minutes, before finding the on-rushing shot-stopper again just after the half hour mark.
But it was miss number three which underlined Morata's lack of confidence in his finishing ability. For a player who had one of the best minutes-per-goal rates in Europe last season, this was a bad one, shooting wide when clear through on goal 10 minutes after the re-start.
Chelsea were a goal to the good at the time through a Kevin Long own goal but it was a golden opportunity to kill off the game. Instead Burnley were level just a few minutes later thanks to a cruelly deflected goal.
Fortunately for Morata, Victor Moses restored Chelsea's advantage almost immediately. But Morata was subbed off soon after and the striker's anger and frustration with his performance was plain to see as he snapped at some Burnley supporters and slammed his removed boots onto the floor of the dugout.
It summed up his second half of the season. Since the turn of the year things are just not coming off for him.
"It summed up his second half of the season," said Sky Sports pundit Frank Sinclair. "Since the turn of the year things are just not coming off for him. One v ones, you just don't think he's convincing enough.
"A more confident centre-forward takes his first chance a bit earlier, the second is more of a half chance - the keeper has done well to close him down - but the third one he gives Pope a chance.
"No player likes being taken off but he's more frustrated with himself than anything."
Giroud, handed his first start away from Stamford Bridge since joining Chelsea in January, was far more effective.
While it wasn't a performance to match his two-goal heroics off the bench against Southampton on Saturday, he continued to offer an important target for Chelsea's attacks - and will believe he deserves the chance to test Saints again this weekend.
The Frenchman saw all three of his attempts blocked by Burnley defenders but laid off a joint-game-high three key passes, linking up the visitors' play.
Eden Hazard, in just 19 minutes after replacing Morata, matched Giroud's tally of passes leading to shots, and will surely come back into the team for kick-off at Wembley. And that will force Conte to make a selection call up front.
"I think the likes of Willian and Hazard have got to come back into the team and the big decision Conte has got to make is Giroud or Morata to lead the line," said Sinclair. "In current form, me personally, I'd go with Giroud."
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