Diego Costa underlines his importance to Chelsea against Hull City FC.
Diego Costa is rarely far from the headlines, but even by his standards the last fortnight has been hectic. His future at Chelsea was thrown into doubt when he rowed with Antonio Conte over an offer from China before last Saturday’s meeting with Leicester, but questions were answered and criticism was silenced with Sunday’s match-winning display against Hull.
Costa’s low finish from Victor Moses’ cut-back in first-half stoppage time was his 15th goal of the season. It helped the Blues open up an eight-point lead at the top of the Premier League, and a title challenge that seemed to have struck its first major obstacle suddenly looks stronger than ever.
Costa took aim at his critics with his ‘too much talk’ celebration, but his all-round performance was an even clearer message to those questioning his commitment. Costa set the tone for the evening when he sent a powerful drive narrowly wide with nine seconds on the clock, and he played like a man with a point to prove right up until he was substituted to a standing ovation in the 86th minute.
His starring display came on a day when Chelsea were well below their best, and it was certainly not the first time he has dragged them to victory this season. The 28-year-old accounted for six of their nine shots against Hull, and he would have had a second goal it wasn’t for a fine save by Eldin Jakupovic shortly before his substitution.
Conte had spent much of the build-up to the game dismissing fears over Costa’s commitment, and his stance was vindicated by the striker’s work-rate at Stamford Bridge. Costa chased down lost causes and harried Hull’s defenders throughout.
None of his team-mates had made more high-intensity sprints (62) when he left the pitch, and he had also clocked the highest top speed and competed the most duels.
Chants of “Diego, Diego, Diego” rang out around Stamford Bridge as he was replaced by Michy Batshuayi. Costa made a point of applauding the fans, and there were handshakes for every member of Chelsea’s coaching staff before he took his seat on the bench.
Harmony was restored, and Conte used the opportunity to draw a line under the speculation after the game.