Chelsea’s combustible forward Diego Costa has been charged with improper conduct by the Football Association following his sending off during the London club’s 2-0 loss to Everton on Saturday.
The Brazilian-born Spanish international was sent off for a second bookable offence after a clash with Gareth Barry in the 84th minute of the FA Cup quarter-final at the weekend. A melee ensued during which time it appeared as if Costa tried to bite the Everton midfielder. Both players have since denied the that the 27-year-old did indeed bite Barry, though the video footage seems to counter that.
The Football Association have charged Costa with improper conduct for the period of time after he was shown the red card but before he left the pitch. They said, “It is alleged his behaviour, after being shown a second yellow card in the game, amounted to improper conduct”. Costa has until 6pm on Thursday the 17th of March to respond to the charge made.
Though the focus of the press’ attention regarding the incident was around the alleged bite, former Premier League referee Howard Webb believes that it is Costa’s refusal to leave the pitch in the wake of the incident that has seen the FA decide to charge the forward. He said, “I’ll be amazed if Costa is not punished for his reaction after the second yellow card. He fails to leave the field of play, he is aggressive again to Michael Oliver and referees are always told to report that situation. That can lead to another match ban”.
Webb doubts that the FA’s decision is anything to do with the attempted bite. He said, “There is no way Michael Oliver can see what happens then with the neck – if it is a bite or not. He couldn’t see it anyway as he is looking at the other side of Gareth Barry…The only time you could be sent off for attempting to bite is if you make the action to bite and the other player pulls away. But it looks like he has thought about it but not gone through with it. From what I’ve seen of the footage, it is not sufficient to support a charge for violent conduct retrospectively”.
Costa will be hoping that Webb is correct, especially owing to the fact that former Liverpool player Luis Suarez was banned for ten matches by the FA when he was found guilty of biting Branislav Ivanovic during a match between Liverpool and Chelsea in 2013.
The player himself has denied that he attempted to bite Barry. A Chelsea spokesperson released a statement on his behalf saying, “Diego spoke to club officials and expressed regret over his reaction to the challenge from Barry that led to his red card. But Diego was also very clear that he did not bite him at any point during that altercation”.
Chelsea’s interim manager Guus Hiddink felt that Costa was provoked throughout the match and that Michael Oliver, the match referee, should have done more to protect the forward, though he claimed he did not see the incident. He said, “He was chased a bit in the game by Everton. They went after him. They knew it. It is within the rules. As a referee you have to protect the situation, but knowing and feeling this atmosphere. I try to be fair in my judgement and it is difficult for me to say yes or no so I don’t want to give judgement on this [bite]”.
Everton manager Roberto Martinez, meanwhile, felt that the referee handled the incident correctly, as well as the later sending off of Barry himself, whilst downplaying any possible bite. He said, “My interpretation is I don’t think it was a key moment. It was an emotional game and rightly so. Diego Costa has a fighting spirit and I would like to praise the referee. The sending off of Diego Costa was right as I thought it was a second yellow card and the sending off of Gareth Barry was right. After we have won a game like this and got to Wembley, which our fans deserve so much, the last thing I am going to do is see if an opposing player has bit my player. Gareth Barry has said it is nothing to worry about. He is just disappointed he got a second yellow card”.
Despite having a fiery reputation the sending off was Costa’s first since moving to West London. He has twice been banned retrospectively during his Chelsea career, however. In January of 2015 he received a retrospective three-match ban for a stamp on Liverpool midfielder Emre Can during the League Cup semi-final at Stamford Bridge. Then in September of last year he was again banned for three-matches retrospectively after a clash with Arsenal defender Laurent Koscielny during a Premier League game at Chelsea’s home ground.
When Hiddink was asked whether he had considered seeking out an anger management course for the striker he joked, “There are movies about that, aren’t there? Wasn’t Jack Nicholson in a film called Anger Management? Maybe we can go and watch it together”.
Costa also has until Wednesday to talk to the FA about a gesture he was alleged to have made towards the Everton fans as he went off the pitch at half-time.