Costa sends Chelsea to the top
DIEGO COSTA’S 10th goal of the season moved Chelsea top of the Premier League after a dominant win over Middlesbrough at the Riverside Stadium.
After an even start, Chelsea upped the tempo and deservedly led at the break when Costa reacted quickest to drill in a loose ball inside the Boro box.
The Blues continued to create chances, Pedro going closest when he smacked a rising drive against the crossbar.
Boro’s best chance came when Alvaro Negredo’s 78th minute volley was saved.
It was the only time the home side forced Blues keeper Thibaut Courtois into a serious stop as they lost for the first time in four matches.
Chelsea leapfrogged Liverpool and Manchester City to go a point clear, while Boro remain one point above the relegation zone in 15th place.
Chelsea boss Antonio Conte was effusive in his praise of Costa before the game, labelling the Spain international as “one of the best strikers in the world”.
While the former Atletico Madrid frontman did not find himself presented with plenty of goalscoring chances, he was constantly bothering the Boro centrebacks with his movement, strength and willingness to chase seemingly lost causes.
And, most importantly, he was clinical when a sniff of an opportunity arrived.
Boro failed to deal with Eden Hazard’s inswinging corner just before half-time, Costa reacting quickest to instinctively stab in an angled effort from inside the six-yard box.
With Hazard quiet in comparison to recent weeks, Costa was the fulcrum of the visitors’ attacking play.
The 28-year-old matchwinner also teed up chances for Pedro, Marcos Alonso and Hazard, showing once again he is back to the form which helped the Blues win the Premier League title 18 months ago in his first season at the club. —