Chelsea boss Guus Hiddink has defended Diego Costa after the striker was once again involved in a scuffle during the Blues’ 0-0 draw with Watford on Wednesday.
The Spaniard was shown a yellow card after a tussle with Juan Carlos Paredes which saw the Ecuadorian fall to the ground holding his face. Referee Mike Dean booked both players for their involvement in the incident, and it could easily have been a second yellow for Costa as he was not carded for pushing Sebastian Prodl to the floor earlier in the half.
Costa has courted controversy throughout his time with the Blues, but speaking after the match, Hiddink insisted that Costa had been provoked.
“It was close to us and we saw what happened,” Hiddink told BT Sport of the incident. “Paredes gave him a push in the back and after that there was a stumbling between the two of them, and then he put his hands to his face and Diego was nowhere near his face.
“They tried to provoke him a bit but I have to defend him on what I see, and that is the reality of what we saw just in front of our eyes.
“[Costa] knows he was provoked. When things are going wrong they go wrong, but when they are provoked I protect my players and I think it’s very fair. He was very calm at half-time. We were just focusing on our goal and he was focusing on that and not on other provocations.”
Watford captain Troy Deeney was left less than impressed with the actions of both Costa and Paredes.
“It’s new age football, isn’t it?” Deeney said. “One little touch and everyone goes rolling around. My opinion was that the ref had spoken to him previously, so if he’s going to speak to him again then surely it’s a yellow card. That’s all I was asking. To be fair, it’s just handbags between everyone and modern day football.
“I remember playing Sunday League and that wouldn’t have happened. The age that we live in, everyone pushes each other and rolls around trying to get the other person sent off. I don’t really like it personally and I’ll be having a word with Paredes on our side.”
The draw extends Chelsea’s unbeaten run under Hiddink to seven Premier League games. The Blues are currently 13th on the Premier League standings.