Chelsea and Costa win match but lose fans
Repugnant striker defines a team impossible to love
(Kurt Zouma 53, Eden Hazard 90+1)
Sadly, predictably, wearily, this is Chelsea.
A brutish, thuggish brat masquerading as a professional footballer defines the champions.
Jose Mourinho already makes the Blues hard to like. Diego Costa has just made them easier to loathe.
Chelsea thrive on a siege mentality, but this was stupid.
Costa's nasty behaviour was as repugnant as it was childish.
He conspired to get Gabriel Paulista sent off, bleating like a cornered sheep when the Arsenal centre back lost patience with the pest.
The Brazilian flicked a boot, saw red and the Gunners lost the battle.
But the Blues lost the PR war. They won 2-0, but the result was always going to be a secondary concern once Costa played the puerile card.
Chelsea are a side made in their manager's image and Mourinho has whined and complained since the start of the season, wallowing in self-pity and pointing the finger of blame at everyone but himself.
It's never Mourinho's fault. Ever.
Who does that remind you of?
Costa's cheating was his side's season in microcosm. He lashed out. He blamed others for his wretched behaviour and somehow escaped suitable punishment, but only for now.
The repercussions for both the Blues and their resident bully are yet to be keenly felt. Authorities should hand Costa his just desserts.
Popular opinion will take care of Chelsea.
Champions are not always liked. Sometimes they are loathed. All's fair in love and tribalism. But serial winners are usually respected, even if it's begrudging.
There was nothing to admire about Costa's antics.
In the 44th minute of a dull first half, where the only highlight had been Mourinho's sheepish, pre-match handshake with Arsene Wenger, Costa got in Laurent Koscielny's face.
The striker's arms flailed around with all the coordination of a blind-folded toddler, slapping the Arsenal centre back three times.
Referee Mike Dean didn't spot the slapping, but Gabriel did. So the Brazilian and the Spaniard had words in Portuguese. Both earned a booking.
But Costa kept going, niggling and irritating, digging away at a hole for Gabriel to fall into.
Foolishly, Gabriel obliged. Even more foolishly, Dean brandished a straight red at the dumbfounded Brazilian.
Wenger was apoplectic in the dugout, his veins bulging as Gabriel initially refused to leave the pitch.
Mourinho, always aware of his image, quietly exited the scene. He knows what's coming next. Costa will be a marked man now, but so will Mourinho. There is no defence for the indefensible.
Not that Chelsea will particularly care. Cynical gamesmanship has long been a tool of Mourinho's trade.
Anyone who naively clings to what's left of a fading Corinthian spirit in the modern game clearly doesn't watch the Blues very often.
Inevitably, Kurt Zouma put them ahead in the 53rd minute. In any other circumstances, a first Premier League goal for the rising defender would've been an occasion to savour.
But the gleeful badge-slapping from the men in blue, along with the un-ironic whooping from the home crowd, was hard to take.
Chelsea had profited from cheating. No more, no less.
They went ahead via a set-piece against undermanned, demoralised opponents still reeling from the red card fallout.
And, if further salt were needed for those gaping wounds, Zouma rose unmarked to nod home. He was in pole position. He was standing in Gabriel's position.
Even then, Chelsea managed to make a meal of victory. Despite an unfair disadvantage, Theo Walcott sought to exploit the Blues' lack of pace at the back.
Mourinho had dropped John Terry to the bench for the first time in his Chelsea career, aware of his pedestrian back four, and still the Gunners threatened.
And then, to add insult to injury, Santi Cazorla followed Gabriel into the dressing room with a second yellow after a reckless challenge on Cesc Fabregas.
Wenger stared from the sidelines in disbelief, perhaps looking for the hidden camera. He looked like he'd been punked.
But the real punk left the field moments later.
Costa, after an evening of slaps, digs, jibes and at least two possible red-card offences, was finally substituted.
Mourinho took him off before he was sent off.
The bar-room brawler left to a standing ovation. Of course he did.
Eden Hazard then sealed the three points with a deflected goal in stoppage time.
That's entertainment at Stamford Bridge. That's Chelsea. They got what they came for.
But there can be nothing beautiful about their game when the victory is so ugly.
Wenger hits out at referee
Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger accused referee Mike Dean of "weakness" for failing to send off Chelsea striker Diego Costa during his side's 2-0 defeat at Stamford Bridge yesterday.
Costa clashed with both Arsenal centre backs late in the second half, twice lashing out at Laurent Koscielny with his hand and then exchanging words with Gabriel Paulista.
After Costa and Gabriel were both booked, the Arsenal man was sent off for kicking out at the Chelsea striker, but Wenger felt that Costa should have been dismissed for his role as instigator.
"I would not like to be Mike Dean tonight," Wenger told BT Sport.
"Costa twice should be sent off. He hits him (Koscielny) in the face on purpose.
"In every game, he has aggravation and he gets away with it because of the weakness of the referee.
"We knew before the game he is only looking at that. Gabriel should not have responded at all, but the two sending-offs for us and Costa staying on the pitch is a shame."
Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho refused to be drawn on Gabriel's dismissal, but praised Costa for his performance.
"I don't have a view on the sending off," said the Portuguese.
"Man of the match for sure was Diego Costa. He brought everything to the game."
Arsenal finished the match with nine men after Santi Cazorla was shown a second yellow card for sliding in on Cesc Fabregas in the 78th minute.
Kurt Zouma headed Chelsea in front from Fabregas's free-kick early in the second half and Eden Hazard added a second goal with a deflected shot in stoppage time.
The result gave Chelsea, the defending Premier League champions, a first home win of the campaign, after a return of four points from five games that represented their worst start to a league season in 29 years.
Mourinho defended his decision to include Zouma in place of John Terry, his captain.
Asked if he had felt the need to explain himself to Terry, Mourinho replied: "No. John Terry doesn't need me to speak with him because he knows what I feel, what I think.
"He knows the relation. He knows that he is my man. He knows that if I have to choose one out of 25 (players) to be my man, he is the first.
"He knows that I care about him as a person, as a player.
"He knows that nothing is (at) risk. He knows that my decision had only one intention, which was to help my team to win the match."
- Bournemouth 2 Sunderland 0
- Aston Villa 0 West Brom 1
- Newcastle 1 Watford 2
- Stoke 2 Leicester 2
- Swansea 0 Everton 0
Mourinho versus Wenger
Press Association Sport looks at how the men in the dugout matched up.
Mourinho was waiting in the technical area for Wenger to emerge from the tunnel, and immediately offered his hand, which the French coach was quick to accept, if perhaps appearing to do somewhat begrudgingly before heading off to the away dugout.
The Portuguese manager, though, was less than impressed when Chelsea's first-half penalty shout following a wrestle between Eden Hazard and Gabriel Paulista was turned away by referee Mike Dean.
It was then Wenger's turn to shake his head following a red card for Gabriel and he gave the officials a stone-faced glare as they walked off at half-time.
The second half saw both men back in their seats, before Mourinho revelled in Chelsea's goals and Wenger again scowled in disbelief when Dean showed captain Santi Cazorla a second yellow card.
Chelsea again started with captain John Terry on the bench, as Kurt Zouma was deployed at centre back alongside Gary Cahill.
Wenger opted to start with the in-form Theo Walcott in attack, the England forward's pace a potent weapon on the counter.
Following a slow start for the home side, Mourinho moved playmaker Hazard into a more central role to support Pedro Rodriguez.
Chelsea's persistence after the sending-off paid off when Zouma rose to head in Cesc Fabregas' free-kick.
But Wenger would have been unhappy by the poor marking by his players during the setpiece.
Wenger tried to change things by bringing on Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Olivier Giroud, but there was little time for them to bed in before another dismissal shifted the balance once again.
The decisions of the referee rather than in-match changes by either manager settled this contest, but that will not matter to Mourinho.
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