Diego Costa should not have been on the pitch to score Chelsea’s winner against West Ham but was not reckless in upending Adrian, according to Slaven Bilic.
Costa avoided a second yellow card for his late challenge on the goalkeeper, then fired the last-gasp winner as Chelsea prevailed 2-1 last night.
The Spain striker handed Antonio Conte the ideal start to his Premier League career at Stamford Bridge, but Hammers boss Bilic refused to criticise the 27-year-old.
“I saw that incident again, I don’t think it was reckless,” said Bilic. “It was from my point of view not deliberate, but it was very late.
“Nine times out of 10 you see that challenge and get one (a yellow card) – unfortunately this was the 10th time.
“But really I am only disappointed with the late goal.
“I don’t know what he (the referee) wanted to do, but he didn’t give it and that’s it.”
Eden Hazard’s penalty handed Chelsea the perfect second-half start, only for James Collins to blast a late equaliser.
West Ham were unable to hold out for the draw, however, with Costa sliding into the bottom corner with one minute to play.
Referee Anthony Taylor booked Costa for dissent in the first half, but refused to act on the striker’s lunge on Adrian.
New Chelsea manager Conte moved quickly to defend Costa’s actions in victory, insisting his star forward did not deserve to be sent off.
“I must be honest Diego tried to put pressure on Adrian, and then before the contact he stopped,” said Conte.
“And then for this reason I think that the referee took the right decision.
“We know Diego is a passionate man, and he puts passion into everything he does.
“And he showed he will run for everything.
“But in this situation I must be honest I think that the referee took the right decision.”
Former Juventus boss Conte opted to leave Cesc Fabregas on the bench for Monday’s game, then later insisted the Spain midfielder retains a pivotal role at Stamford Bridge.
“Cesc is Chelsea’s player, and I’m happy about him, with his attitude and behaviour,” said Conte.
“He must know from before that when we are a great team like Chelsea it can happen that I have to take a decision before the game to choose a starting XI.
“It can happen that Fabregas is not in the starting XI, but it can happen for all the players.”