Mourinho plays down Costa bib incident after draw at Tottenham
TOTTENHAM HOTSPUR 0 CHELSEA 0
DIEGO COSTA was dropped as Chelsea and Tottenham played out a goalless draw which will do little to kickstart the Barclays Premier League champions’ season.
Costa was an unused substitute as Jose Mourinho lost patience with the striker, but Chelsea’s second away win of the season remained elusive as Tottenham extended their unbeaten run to 13 games.
Both sides had returned from lengthy European trips, with Spurs boss Mauricio Pochettino describing the noon kick-off as a “joke” following Thursday night’s 2,500-mile flight from Azerbaijan.
Fluency was lacking in an at-times scrappy contest which lacked moments of real quality.
Hugo Lloris made a fine save to deny Eden Hazard a first goal of the season after Son Heung-min had spurned the best opportunity of the first half following Harry Kane’s cross.
Mourinho will be grateful for a fourth Premier League clean sheet of the season, particularly in the absence of captain John Terry (ankle) and at a venue where Chelsea lost 5-3 on New Year’s Day.
Spurs’ unbeaten streak is their longest since a 14-match run between November 1984 and March 1985.
Mourinho says he left out Costa due to low confidence after just four goals this season, but the pair argued in Israel and the manager criticised the striker’s reading of the game on Friday.
Reports continue that Chelsea are looking for a new striker in January – with Kane among those linked – and the speculation is likely to heighten after Costa appeared to throw a bib in the direction of his manager after returning from warming up on the touchline.
However, Mourinho played down any suggestion of a falling out. He said: “If he wants to hurt me, it’s not with a bib. I have a good relationship with him.
“I think Diego is very privileged because he was the last one to be (put) on the bench.
“Everybody was on the bench. I kept him in the team for all these matches and today we thought the best strategy to play was this one. We are happy with the decision.”
Chelsea’s attacking quartet of Pedro, Willian, Oscar and Hazard caused a host of problems for Spurs with their movement and trickery, but clear-cut chances were hard to come by.
The best early chance was when Oscar crossed for Hazard, who headed just over.
Prior to that Tottenham had come closest to taking the lead.
Danny Rose crossed towards Kane and Gary Cahill intervened, in the process catching Asmir Begovic on the head. Begovic next saved Kane’s shot, gathering at the second attempt before Hazard went close.
Pedro’s effort from the edge of the box deflected over and Son lost Branislav Ivanovic to meet Kane’s cross from the right, but headed weakly at Begovic.
Mousa Dembele next had a shot stopped and Son fired over, before Oscar hit the side-netting after beating Mason.
Chelsea were under pressure which was so nearly relieved when Ivanovic’s cross-field pass found Hazard, who struck a first-time volley across Lloris, who made a fine save. That was as good as it got in a stalemate.
UNSETTLED: Diego Costa was an unused substitute and appeared to throw a bib in the direction of Mourinho