Chelsea defender Kurt Zouma insists he has huge respect for team-mate Diego Costa, despite branding the Spain international a “cheat” for his weekend spat with Arsenal’s Gabriel.
Costa and Gabriel indulged in a petulant battle at Stamford Bridge on Saturday which started when the former swung two hands into the face of Gunners defender Laurent Koscielny.
Referee Mike Dean booked them both but then showed Gabriel a straight red after a senseless kick into Costa’s shin – an act which the former Atletico Madrid man was quick to point out to the match official.
Speaking straight after the game, Zouma told beIN Sport: “We’re not surprised because we know Diego.
“Everyone knows Diego and this guy likes to cheat a lot and put the opponent out of his game.
“That happened in the game but he’s a really nice guy.
“We’re proud to have him, like the other players, and we’re happy to win this game.”
The comments were widely reported, prompting young Frenchman Zouma to issue a swift clarification on social media.
He wrote on Twitter: “Sorry for any confusion, English is not my first language & I did not mean to accuse anyone of cheating. Simply to say Diego is a player who puts pressure on his opponents & who I have huge respect for.”