Costa lucky not to be dropped sooner, says Mour­inho

Striker heads to team bus af­ter touch­line strop Chelsea like a ‘small team’, claims Po­chet­tino

The Daily Telegraph - Total Football - - TOTAL FOOTBALL/PREMIER LEAGUE - Matt Law FOOT­BALL NEWS COR­RE­SPON­DENT at White Hart Lane

Diego Costa made lit­tle at­tempt to hide his dis­plea­sure af­ter be­ing dropped and left on the sub­sti­tutes’ bench by Jose Mour­inho at White Hart Lane yes­ter­day.

Mour­inho ad­mit­ted that Costa was un­happy about be­ing left out of his start­ing line-up but the man­ager said he was lucky not to have been dropped pre­vi­ously this sea­son. He has scored only four goals since Au­gust and seven in 10 months.

The Spain striker did not join in the pre-match warm-up with his team-mates and per­formed a half­hearted touch­line rou­tine when asked to get ready dur­ing the match. On his re­turn to the bench he tossed his bib over his shoul­der in the di­rec­tion of Mour­inho, nar­rowly miss­ing the man­ager.

Rather than warm down with some of the other Chelsea sub­sti­tutes at the end of the game, Costa was through the chang­ing room and on to the team bus within 15 min­utes of the fi­nal whis­tle.

He sat on the bus on his own for around 30 min­utes and had to wait for more than an hour for all of the Chelsea play­ers to shower, change and join him.

Even though Mour­inho was with­out the in­jured Radamel Fal­cao and Loïc Rémy, whose wife gave birth on Satur­day, he still opted to leave Costa on the bench and de­ploy Eden Haz­ard as a makeshift striker.

The de­ci­sion came just five days af­ter Mour­inho had in­sisted that he had patched up an on-pitch bust-up with Costa dur­ing the Cham­pi­ons League vic­tory over Mac­cabi Tel Aviv with “kisses and cud­dles”.

The Spain in­ter­na­tional is the lat­est high-pro­file Chelsea player to be dropped by Mour­inho, fol­low­ing the cap­tain John Terry, Haz­ard, Ne­manja Matic, Cesc Fabregas and Branislav Ivanovic.

“Diego is very priv­i­leged be­cause he was the last one to be on the bench,” Mour­inho said. “Ev­ery­one else has been – the cap­tain, Ivanovic, Cahill, the vice-cap­tain of Eng­land, Fabregas, Pe­dro, Haz­ard, player of the sea­son, Os­car. Ev­ery­one was on the bench.

“Diego was priv­i­leged be­cause I kept him in the team for all th­ese matches. To­day we thought the best strat­egy was this one. We are happy with the de­ci­sion and the play­ers. If we had won 1-0, our per­for­mance would have been con­sid­ered tremen­dous. You will still say it was good.

“Phys­i­cally, he [Costa] is fine. No prob­lems. He is work­ing well ev­ery day. His mood is pos­i­tive. He’s al­ways a pos­i­tive guy in the team.

“I was not ex­pect­ing to have a player on the bench jump­ing and singing be­cause he is not play­ing, un­less you’re a kid who has a chance to go on the bench. But for a top player, they’re not happy. His be­hav­iour was nor­mal. He was ready to play when he went to warm up. When I de­cided not to play him, he went. And prob­a­bly he is eat­ing while wait­ing for us on the bus.”

Asked about Costa throw­ing his bib, which amused his fel­low sub­sti­tutes Papy Djilo­bodji and John Obi Mikel, Mour­inho said: “If he wants to hurt me, it’s not with a bib. I have a good re­la­tion­ship with him, no prob­lem.”

De­spite the fact that Chelsea failed to score with Haz­ard – who forced Hugo Lloris to make a su­perb save from an an­gled vol­ley – up front, Mour­inho de­cided against throw­ing Costa on in search of a goal. As The Daily Tele­graph re­ported last week, Chelsea are con­sid­er­ing whether to sign a striker in Jan­uary, with in­creas­ing con­cerns at the club about Costa’s form and men­tal state.

“I was look­ing for a win­ner, but with­out him,” Mour­inho said. “I was tempted not to change one player. I was look­ing at the team on the pitch to give me a win­ner.

“Wil­lian was in a dif­fi­cult sit­u­a­tion, though, and asked for a change, and the last change for Pe­dro was a bit more of the same. But I was tempted not to touch the team.

“We had, I think, two or three big chances and lots of half-chances, those which you can’t see be­cause we don’t ar­rive in front of goal – we missed passes or de­ci­sions, had spa­ces to at­tack and were al­most there, but it didn’t come off.

“My temp­ta­tion was not to make a sin­gle change. I think if we de­serve credit at keep­ing the clean sheet – as we do – then Spurs de­serve even more credit for the clean sheet be­cause we were the more dan­ger­ous team. Lloris was the goal­keeper with more work and the save of the game [from Haz­ard], and we cre­ated the bet­ter chances.”

Terry missed yes­ter­day’s game with an an­kle in­jury, but Mour­inho re­vealed that both the Chelsea cap­tain and goal­keeper Thibaut Cour­tois should be fit to face Bournemouth on Satur­day.

Mauri­cio Po­chet­tino, the Tot­ten­ham head coach, de­scribed his squad as “he­roes” af­ter eight of the play­ers who started against Qarabag and ar­rived back in Eng­land only at 4.30am on Fri­day also started against Chelsea.

Po­chet­tino also claimed that it was Chelsea who could be seen as the “small team” for try­ing to hit Spurs on the break.

“We de­served more than we got, so I was dis­ap­pointed, but it’s true that I’m proud of the play­ers. For me they’re big he­roes,” Po­chet­tino, whose team are now un­beaten in 13 Premier League games, said.

“You got the feel­ing that Chelsea were a small team and Tot­ten­ham can win ev­ery game we play. It’s very dif­fi­cult, though, not easy. We are the youngest team in the Premier League and the ma­tu­rity we showed to­day we have shown in dif­fer­ent games.”

Po­chet­tino added: “It’s a good thing that, maybe, we are a big­ger club than Chelsea or that we de­serve more. We showed good per­for­mances in the last few games, and I’m happy, but we have to keep work­ing hard.”

Lone raider: Eden Haz­ard was played in the strik­ing role ahead of Diego Costa at White Hart Lane

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