Conte lav­ishes praise on ruth­less Costa

The Myanmar Times - - Sport -

AN­TO­NIO Conte hailed a newly fo­cused Diego Costa as “one of the best strik­ers in the world” af­ter the Spa­niard’s match-win­ning strike at Mid­dles­brough pro­pelled Chelsea to the top of the Premier League ta­ble.

Costa scored the only goal of the game at the River­side, pounc­ing af­ter a first-half cor­ner re­bounded in­side the six-yard box, and now tops the Premier League goal-scor­ing charts with 10 goals in 12 games.

Per­haps just as sig­nif­i­cantly, he has not been booked since the mid­dle of Septem­ber, and where post-match dis­cus­sions once fo­cused on a per­ceived lack of dis­ci­pline and a pen­chant for ar­gu­ing with of­fi­cials, it is now Costa’s per­for­mance that is do­ing the talk­ing.

“Diego is al­ways im­por­tant, not only for to­day,” said Conte. “He is our point of ref­er­ence in at­tack­ing. He is im­pres­sive in the way he is finding his goals, and it is im­por­tant to con­tinue this way be­cause we need his goals.

“Is he fo­cused just on his football? It is im­por­tant to have this ques­tion. In the past, peo­ple have been ask­ing me about his be­hav­iour and his re­ac­tions, but now as a striker, I think he is one of the best in the world.

“He has to con­tinue this way, and he is show­ing his pa­tience in the right way and is fo­cused on help­ing the team, with and with­out the ball.”

With Liver­pool fail­ing to beat Southamp­ton on Novem­ber 19, Chelsea’s vic­tory took them to the top of the ta­ble for the first time un­der Conte.

Hav­ing won their last six games with­out con­ced­ing a goal, they are one point clear of both Liver­pool and Man­ches­ter City, al­though Conte said it is still too early to be talk­ing about the ti­tle.

“I think that now it is dif­fi­cult to reply to this,” he said. “Only a month and a half ago, you saw Chelsea con­ceded two de­feats to Liver­pool and Ar­se­nal.

“It’s hard to say if we’re the best side in the coun­try right now, but I’m pleased with the play­ers be­cause they know our fans de­mand that we must fight un­til the end. I’m see­ing with my own eyes that we have spe­cial play­ers.”

Things are about to get more dif­fi­cult for the league lead­ers, with next week­end’s home game against Lon­don rivals Tot­ten­ham Hot­spur pre­ced­ing a trip to Man­ches­ter City.

Hav­ing claimed re­cent draws against Ar­se­nal and City, Mid­dles­brough pro­duced an­other spir­ited dis­play against one of the ti­tle con­tenders. How­ever, for all their im­proved form, Ai­tor Karanka’s side is just one point clear of the rel­e­ga­tion zone.

“Play­ing against a team like Chelsea, we knew it would be tough,” said the Boro head coach.

“One mis­take pun­ished us, but we have shown we can com­pete against the best teams in the league. You can’t be pleased to lose one game, but I am pleased with the at­ti­tude of the play­ers.” –

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