Antonio Conte feels he was vindicated in recalling Diego Costa to the Chelsea starting XI after the controversial striker scored the opening goal in a 2-0 Premier League win over Hull on Sunday.
Costa had missed the Blues’ previous match, a 3-0 victory at struggling champions Leicester City, supposedly with a back injury although rumours were rife the striker had fallen out with Conte and was reportedly courting a big-money move to the Chinese Super League.
The Spain international was picked from kick-off at Stamford Bridge, though, netting deep into first-half injury time as Chelsea saw off the challenge of the relegation-threatened Tigers.
“[His] performance was good,” Conte told Sky Sports, with his team sitting eight points clear at the top.
“[I’m] happy, pleased for this. Before the game, in the press conference, a lot of people were asking me about his form, his attitude.
“And I said I would I take the best decision for the team and I think, after this performance, I made the best decision.
“But it is normal, normal to receive a lot of questions. The most important thing for us, is the answer that we gave on the pitch, for the players, for me, for the club, for the fans and most importantly for the league table.”
Having scored, Costa made a gesture which seemed to call for silence from his critics, but Conte – reacting with typical exuberance to the deadlock being broken – was not in a position to note the possible significance of the player’s body language.
“Honestly, I was very happy to see the celebration because I was celebrating the goal on the bench,” he said.
“I think [for] Diego, the most important thing is he scored. The celebration is good, but the most important thing is he scored.”
Chelsea faced a tough challenge at home to a Hull side who have improved under Portuguese coach Marco Silva, with Conte expecting plenty more difficult assignments as they attempt to reclaim the title.
“It’s normal. If you see the other games, today, you understand that this league is very difficult,” he said.
“When I continue to [say this for] every game, [it] is not easy, every game is tough. We face the game in the right way.
“Now it’s important to continue and to know that every game we must fight a lot to try to win.
“[With] every game, three points become very [significant]. But we are ready to fight, ready to face the opponent. The games are very tough also for the other teams.”
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