For so long it looked like yet another of those nights for Alvaro Morata with more missed chances, a thick lip and a yellow card to show for his efforts.
Frustration simmered but in the 70th minute, Cesc Fabregas clipped a pass forwards to Willian, who nodded it square across goal and Morata pounced with a swish of his right boot and his half-volley rippled the net.
Tears welled in his eyes as Stamford Bridge cheered, in relief as much as anything. No-one enjoyed seeing him toil as he had through his crisis of confidence.
MATCH FACTS, PLAYER RATINGS AND MATCH ZONE
Chelsea (4-3-3): Arrizabalaga 7; Zappacosta 5, Cahill 5, Christensen 6, Emerson 6.5; Kovacic 6, Fabregas 6.5, Loftus-Cheek 6 (Barkley 66, 6.5); Willian 7 (Moses 74, 6.5), Morata 6.5, Pedro 6 (Hazard 54, 7.5)
Subs not used: Caballero, Alonso, Kante, Ampadu
Goals: Morata 70
Manager: Maurizio Sarri
Vidi (4-5-1): Tujvel 6; Fiola 6.5, Juhász 6.5, Vinícius 6, Stopira 6; Milanov 6 (Hodzic 83), Nego 6, Hadzic 6 (Patkai 83), Huszti 6 (Kovacs 77), Nikolov 6; Scsepovic 6
Subs not used: Kovacsik, Berecz, Tamas, Hangya.
Booked: Nego, Huszti, Milanov
Manager: Marko Nikolic
Ref: Miroslav Zelinka (CZE)
PLAYER RATINGS BY MATT BARLOW AT STAMFORD BRIDGE
The relief must have been enormous. This was his 13th effort in the Europa League this season and the first on target.
Hardly a strike-rate to have them quaking across the continent but this was an emotional day, recalled to the Spain squad and back among the goals.
‘If he wants to cry after scoring a goal, I hope to see him cry very often,’ said Sarri. ‘I am very happy for him. It’s very important for him to score and to play well – and he has played a very good match. He played for his team-mates.
‘Alvarado can restart from this performance’: Maurizio Sarri.
‘I think he can restart from this performance. I hope so, confidence. He has to restart. He has played very well. Better than in the last period. So we can restart.
‘He has to be confident. For us he is very important player. We have Alvaro and Olivier Giroud but we have to play every three days for a long time, I hope, and so he is very important for our season.’
Morata was not the only player guilty of wasting chances against Vidi. The tone was set by Emerson Palmieri who carved through the Hungarian ranks until the goal opened up before him, then the Brazilian blazed over.
Willian, Pedro and Mateo Kovacic missed chances and Davide Zappacosta buried a shot high into the top tier of the Shed from the edge of the penalty area.
Morata seemed to do everything according to the text book as lost his marker, collected a pass, shifted the ball neatly from under his feet and clipped a shot over onrushing goalkeeper Tomas Tujvel.
He seemed as surprised as everyone else to find it had gone wide. Cameras panned to Giroud, dressed in his civvies and watching from the stands.
Ruben Loftus-Cheek thought he deserved a penalty when he was hauled down by Paulo Vinicius after a strong run.
‘Stonewall,’ said captain Gary Cahill, although the Chelsea captain was fortunate not to be punished for a trip on Georgi Milanov, inches outside the area but clean through on goal.
‘A questionable decision, for sure,’ said Vidi boss Marko Nikolic, who was proud that his unfancied team had given the Londoners a fright.
Nine minutes into the second half, Sarri had seen enough and sent on Eden Hazard, who lifted the tempo with his jinking dribbles, quick passes and added an little unpredictability to the dominance of Chelsea.
Finally Morata was rewarded for his persistence with his goal, smartly taken, and only his fifth in the calendar year.
Ross Barkley glanced a header against the woodwork and there might have been more. Yet, Kepa Arrizabalaga was forced to make saves on the break to preserve the clean sheet.
Sarri grumbled about the vulnerability at the back but Chelsea banked another three points to take control of Group L and can at last take satisfaction from a goal to blow away Morata’s blues.
Morata seemed to do everything right as he drifted away from his marker, collected a pass from Pedro, shifted the ball neatly from under his feet and clipped a shot over onrushing goalkeeper Tomas Tujvel.
Only when the ball hit the stanchion behind the netting did everyone inside Stamford Bridge realise he too had missed the target. Cameras panned to Giroud, dressed in his civvies and watching from the stands.
Pedro, back after three games out injured, forced a save but his effort was straight at Tujvel and caused the ‘keeper few problems.
Loftus-Cheek thought he deserved a penalty when he accelerated past two defenders and was hauled down by a third, Paulo Vinicius.
He was stunned to see Czech referee Miroslav Zelinka signal for a corner, and certainly had a strong case, as did the visitors when Georgi Milanov was tripped on the edge of the box by Gary Cahill after catching the Chelsea captain napping to beat him to a pass from Anel Hadzic.
Replays showed contact from Cahill was a fraction outside the penalty area but he was fortunate to find ref Zelinka again unwilling to give the foul.