Chelsea manager Antonio Conte praised striker Diego Costa for his “great discipline” on Saturday following the Blues’ victory over tough-tackling Stoke.
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, this.
“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.”