Diego Costa’s rejuvenation under new Chelsea manager Antonio Conte continued at Hull where the controversial Spanish forward played a pivotal role as his club ended a worrying run of three games without a victory in ultimately comfortable fashion.
In truth, the opening period had been far from comfortable but by the time Costa, ably supported by Willian and Eden Hazard, had completed a counterattacking masterclass, Conte and Chelsea’s season was firmly back on course and Costa had scored his sixth league goal in seven games this season.
By comparison, it took Costa until the first week of January, and 16 games, last season to reach that mark.
Further yet, Costa also managed to avoid collecting a fifth booking in the new campaign and the suspension that would have come with it.
“It’s fantastic for him, for us,” said Conte. “He has scored six goals but I think Diego has the opportunity every game to score goals.
“But it’s important that today he scored a goal but it’s important he’s working for the team. For me, this is the most important thing - together with Willian, together with Hazard.
“I’m pleased with the performance because today we played with the right intensity and good pressure. After two defeats, it’s never easy, but I’m pleased with the attitude and commitment of the players. We’re working hard and I think that’s the right way.”
After surviving a poor first half showing, Chelsea emerged for the second looking far more business like and intent on hurting their hosts on the break.
Hazard twisted and sprinted towards the area before being denied by David Marshall, Costa rounded the keeper from N’Golo Kante’s through ball, struck the post and saw his team mate sky the rebound over and, on 61 minutes, Willian shot Chelsea ahead.
Costa spearheaded the counter, picked out the Brazilian alongside him and, after Willian had shimmied to put his marker out of the game, curled an unstoppable shot into the top corner.
Costa was denied with a low shot from 18 yards moments later but, on 67 minutes, there would be no such reprieve for Hull as Nemanja Matic surged into the home area, had a shot blocked by Curtis Davies and the ball broke kindly for Costa to curl it into the goal.
Yet, Hull had forced Chelsea goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois into the only two saves of significance in the first half - one early, one late - and, in between, gave as good as they got against a club they had not beaten in 28 years.
After just four minutes, and a David Luiz foul on Dieumerci Mbokani, Robert Snodgrass’s terrific 25-yard free-kick forced the Chelsea keeper into a twisting save as he turned the ball over his cross-bar.
And, in first half injury-time, it was Ryan Mason who gathered the ball 25 yards from goal and unleashed a strong shot which the keeper appeared to see late as he forced it behind for a late corner.
Marshall’s first real test came in the opening minutes of the second period, however, as he tipped over a Hazard shot and Chelsea’s combination play should have brought about an opening goal on 58 minutes as Costa rounded Marshall struck the post and N’Golo Kante hurried the rebound high and wide.
A goal soon followed and matters might have worsened for the hosts three minutes after it as Costa collected the ball on another counter-attack and saw his 18-yard shot parried by the keeper.
A second was the least Chelsea deserved and Costa, with a wild shot from the corner of the six-yard box, and Oscar, whose low attempt was pushed away by Marshall, might have further extended the lead in the closing minutes.
For Hull caretaker manager Mike Phelan, the international break should offer the opportunity to discuss his position at the club.
“My future will take care of itself but there is no panic,” he said. “I’m not in a position of worrying too much about it. The talks I’ve had have been extremely good but, once people sleep on things, they tend to change overnight.
“It’s just a case of I wasn’t particularly happy with the uncertainty of the deal. But moving on, we’ll have another coffee and cake, like we did last week, and discuss it.”Reuse content