Antonio Conte has said that Diego Costa did not deserve the yellow card that marred another match-winning display as Chelsea extended their Premier League win streak with a battling 1-0 victory over Crystal Palace.
Costa headed in Cesar Azpilicueta’s deep cross shortly before half-time to give the Blues the lead at Selhurst Park, but not before picking up a fifth booking of the season that will see him suspended for the visit of Bournemouth to Stamford Bridge on Boxing Day.
The 28-year-old was shown a yellow card during an exchange with referee Jonathan Moss after catching Joe Ledley with a late tackle, and after the match Conte said that the situation merited greater leniency.
“Diego is playing very well,” Conte told Sky Sports. “It’s a pity today that he took a yellow card, also [N’Golo] Kante [who will also miss the Bournemouth game]. He doesn’t deserve this yellow card in my opinion. He’s playing for the team and this is the most important thing for us.”
Chelsea’s winning streak in the Premier League now stands at 11 matches after a week that has seen them record three consecutive 1-0 victories against stubborn and organised opponents, and Conte was keen to pay tribute to his team’s less glamorous qualities on display at Selhurst Park.
“We played with great concentration against a strong team, a physical team,” he added. “[Palace] tried to play long balls and second balls, and when they tried to do this they are very dangerous. I’m pleased for the commitment of my players. We scored the goal and created the chances to score another goal.
“It wasn’t easy to win our 11 games in a row. It’s fantastic. I’m pleased for my players because they deserve this.
“I think the most important thing is we are a team in every moment of the games. When we have to suffer we suffer together, when we have to play football we play football. I hope to continue to work in this way to improve, but I’m pleased for my players because I see every day their commitment in training sessions.”
Asked about Costa being replaced by Michy Batshuayi in the 89th minute, Conte said: “Diego felt a bit, not a muscular problem but is muscles were very tired.
“Don’t forget that this game was the third in seven days and Diego played all the games with great quality, great passion, great intensity. It’s nothing of importance but now he has more days to rest compared to his teammates.”
Palace remain just two points above the Premier League relegation zone after home defeats to Manchester United and Chelsea, but manager Alan Pardew is confident that his team’s spirited performances will be rewarded against less illustrious opponents in the coming weeks.
“I think we’re showing in the last two games what we’ve shown in most of the year,” he said. “It was a committed, strong performance but [Chelsea] didn’t give us anything. They defended superbly well. We couldn’t find a way through — not even on set plays, which we’re strong at.
“It made it very difficult once we conceded that first goal. It was a shame, because we had a couple of big chances in the first half.
“We’ve all come up against this system before, but [Chelsea] have outstanding players in it. It’s outstanding players, forget the system. They had some great performances. They ask questions and they don’t make errors. Kante in the midfield has such energy, and he fills a lot of holes that go unnoticed.
“The difference for us now is we’ve got games coming up now that we need points from. But we can take great heart from these two performances. This team is not getting what it deserves, but that is going to correct itself.”
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