Football

Costa stirs debate between Conte and Hughes

It was no surprise when Antonio Conte and Mark Hughes had different views of Diego Costa, after Premier League leaders Chelsea went 13 points clear with a 2-1 win at Stoke City on Saturday.

The infamously feisty Costa, dropped in January after reports of a row with Chelsea boss Conte, was left walking a disciplinary tightrope after being booked for simulation in the 16th minute of the game at the Bet365 Stadium.

The controversial Spain striker was involved in numerous clashes with Stoke players, particularly centre backs Ryan Shawcross and Bruno Martins Indi, but managed to stay on the pitch and Conte praised the way Costa refused to be baited.

"It's not easy when you receive a yellow card after a few minutes," said Conte, whose side won thanks to an 87th-minute winner by defender Gary Cahill.

"The rule is it's normal to make a player angry and to get him to react and to commit another foul.

"I think Diego is showing not only in this game that you have to be very disciplined. Diego is showing himself to be a great player in this way.

"He showed me great commitment and showed he was playing for the team and not for himself.

"I want that from my players and that behaviour from my players."

KEY FIGURE

Costa has been a key figure in Chelsea's inexorable march to the title this season, and while Conte described the striker as an example to his teammates, Hughes felt Costa's reactions to challenges count against him.

"He's an outstanding striker, but on occasions he got elements in his play he doesn't need to have," said Hughes, once a combative centre-forward himself.

"You can look after yourself, but you don't need the rest of it and it takes away from his performance as a player.

"I just think it detracts from what a good player he is." - AFP

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