Cape Town - Chelsea
manager Antonio Conte praised striker Diego Costa for his "great
discipline" on Saturday following the Blues’ victory over tough-tackling
Chelsea battled their way to a 2-1 win in an ill-tempered game thanks
to an 87th-minute strike from Gary Cahill, extending their lead at the
top of the Premier League to 13 points.
Costa received a yellow card after 17 minutes for dissent after a
challenge left him on the floor, but kept his cool during a running
battle with the Stoke defenders and struck the post in the second half .
"It is not simple to get a yellow card after a few minutes," said Conte.
"Diego is showing in all this season, not just this game, great
discipline, great commitment. He showed me [his ability] to think for
the team and not for himself and I want this from my players, this type
of behaviour. He was great, he played a difficult game but he always
showed danger for the defensive line for Stoke," he added.
Conte said that it was part of the game for opponents to try and
provoke players, "I think that it's normal to try to bring a player to
be angry and then to react and to commit another foul. It's normal,
"I think the great news is that Diego is showing [himself] to be a great player, also in this aspect.”
"I know in the past sometimes he has received two yellow cards and
not finished the game, but this season I have to be pleased for him and
for his behaviour," added Conte.
Stoke boss Mark Hughes, meanwhile, dismissed accusations that he had ordered his players to target the fiery Spanish hitman.
"We didn't do that, absolutely not," he insisted. "More likely he targeted our players, to be perfectly honest.”
"We wanted a competitive game and I think that's what it was. I
really enjoyed it - a good Premier League game with no quarter given or
asked,” added Hughes.
"I played in that position for many years and I think he's an
outstanding striker, but on occasions he's got elements of his play that
he doesn't need to have.
"He can still have an edge, he can still have an element of looking
after himself without all the rest of it. I think it takes away from his
image as a player.
"It's not necessary, but maybe that's how he generates his feeling in
the game and he needs that element to produce his best work. I just
think it detracts from what a good player he is."