Antonio Conte: Referee Got Costa Call Correct

Chelsea’s new head coach has defended the referee from last night’s Premier League match against West Ham and said that he was right not to send off Diego Costa for a late challenge on Adrian.

Chelsea took the lead against the Hammers following a 47th minute penalty which was converted by Eden Hazard. Costa was then booked by the match referee, Anthony Taylor, following an introduction this year of a new rule that encourages referees to punish players who argue with decisions. The Spaniard had confronted Taylor when he failed to award the Blues another penalty.

The fiery forward later caught West Ham’s ‘keeper Adrian with a late tackle, getting nowhere near the ball but leaving a mark on the shot-stopper’s leg. Taylor decided against showing the forward a second yellow card that would have seen him sent off.

James Collins equalised for the Hammers in the 77th minute before Costa, somewhat ironically, scored the winning goal for the home side in the 89th minute of play. Slaven Bilic, West Ham’s manager, believes he could just as easily not have been on the pitch, “It was not reckless or deliberate, but it was quite late. He could have been booked again and so a red card. I am not frustrated because of that, I am frustrated because of the late goal”.

The new man in the Stamford Bridge hot-seat believes that the referee made the right call however. Conte, who was brought in in the summer as Chelsea’s first permanent manager since the sacking of José Mourinho, said to Sky Sports after the match, “Diego is a good player and a passionate man – sometimes it happens that he can receive a yellow card. I think in the situation with Adriano the referee took the right decision”.

Costa is known to be a destructive player, with many commentators believing that his combustible play might have seen him leave Stamford Bridge after the arrival of the notoriously strict former Italy national manager. In the past Costa has been given retrospective bans for stamping on players, kicking out and more.

During Chelsea’s FA Cup quarter-final match against Everton at Goodison Park last season the Spaniard appeared to bite Gareth Barry during an exchange between the two players, though the Football Association decided against taking any action. He has also been caught on camera attempting to gouge the eye of Liverpool player Martin Skrtel during a League Cup match between the two teams.

However on this occasion Anthony Taylor saw nothing wrong with Costa’s challenge and chose to allow him to remain on the pitch. It was all part of the excitement of Conte’s first Premier League match in charge of the Blues and he admitted after the game that his adrenalin was higher than he expected it to be. The former Juventus player and manager has a reputation from his time in Italy as being a passionate manager on the touchline and he demonstrated as much when he celebrated with Chelsea fans following Costa’s winner.

In his post-match interview he said, “I knew the Premier League only through television. I played against English teams in the Champions League and Europa League, but playing this league is very difficult. There is a great intensity in the Premier League and it’s very physical. I don’t know if I’ll sleep tonight because the adrenaline is high”.

Chelsea joined the likes of Liverpool, Manchester United and Manchester City with three points from their opening game of the season. They travel to Watford for their next match on Saturday and goal scorer Hazard believes it’s time to forget about their nightmare season last year. They had their worst start to a top-flight campaign since the 1960s and it led to the December sacking of self-proclaimed ‘Special One’ José Mourinho, who is now United’s manager.

The Belgian forward, who came in for some criticism during the last campaign, said, “It was good to be back on the pitch in front of our own supporters. We did very well and we played 90 minutes like tigers. It’s not every year I score in my first game. Last season is finished – we are looking forward to the future. We want to bring a lot of emotion to the fans”.