Diego Costa thrust himself back into the headlines with an 89th-minute winner as Chelsea edged West Ham United 2-1 in Antonio Conte’s first Premier League game as manager on Monday.
Eden Hazard, symbol of Chelsea’s slump from champions to a 10th-place finish last season, opened the scoring at Stamford Bridge with a penalty early in the second half, before James Collins equalised in the 77th minute.
Costa arguably should have been shown a second yellow card after catching West Ham goalkeeper Adrian with a late challenge, but he stayed on to steer a dramatic winner into the bottom-left corner from 20 yards.
“I think the team played a good game with a great intensity and spirit,” said Conte.
“It is important to find the right spirit and intensity. We know we can improve and we must improve a lot, but today I am pleased for my players.”
Asked about Costa’s challenge on Adrian, Conte replied: “I did not see it.”
The bruising Costa’s goal made it a positive opening night for Conte, who handed a full debut to former Leicester City man N’Golo Kante and saw another debutant, substitute Michy Batshuayi, set up the winning strike.
But it was a bitter defeat for West Ham manager Slaven Bilic, who lost debutant Andre Ayew to a thigh injury in the 34th minute.
On Costa’s challenge, Bilic said: “We are not happy with that. I don’t think it was reckless, definitely not.
“It was not deliberate. But it was very late. Nine times out of 10, when you see that kind of challenge on a goalkeeper, it’s a booking. Unfortunately this was the 10th time.”
He added: “We were so close against a top side. But they deserved it.”