Belfast Telegraph

New cool-headed Costa is really good for Chelsea - Thibaut Courtois

Thibaut Courtois believes Premier League leaders Chelsea have benefited from Diego Costa learning to keep his cool in the face of provocation this season.

The Blues claimed a hard-fought 2-1 victory at Stoke on Saturday that maintained their double-figure cushion at the top of the table ahead of the international break, though it was Costa who once again took centre stage.

His theatrics were viewed dimly by Potters boss Mark Hughes, who accused him of targeting his players, while referee Anthony Taylor's patience wore thin as early as the 16th minute when he cautioned the Spaniard seemingly for dissent when Costa was not awarded a free-kick for a blatant dive.

Costa showed more restraint in the final 74 minutes to avoid further punishment, despite being clattered into by both Phil Bardsley and Bruno Martins Indi, as Antonio Conte's side claimed a late winner through Gary Cahill.

Costa had almost as many bookings - 10 - as goals - 16 - last term, but he has found the net on 18 occasions already this term, and goalkeeper Courtois thinks that while he is still no shrinking violet, Chelsea's leading marksman now knows how to better control his emotions.

"They were very physical and it was hard to find our usual game," the Belgian said of Stoke.

"They tried to put our players out of the game by doing that. They know Diego doesn't like it and he maybe starts to fight with people. Maybe they do this to get him a red card or something.

"In some moments maybe Diego exaggerates a bit as well, but I think most of the time they were hitting him quite well.

"After four or five 50-50 moments where the referee can whistle or not whistle, he gets a bit angry and gets a yellow card. So it's important for him to stay calm and he's developed that a lot this season.

"When they kicked him, he remained calm and that's very good for us because in the worst case, he would have got a second yellow card and been out of the game.

"It's a good job he remained calm and dealt with what happened to him and moved on.

"Diego is the type of guy who has a lot of energy and goes for every ball and he gets kicked as well. People know how he is as well and a lot of Stoke players got a yellow card for fouls on him. He was always calm and he does well for us."

Despite Hughes' displeasure with Costa's approach, his team would certainly benefit from a player with his potency in front of goal.

Saido Berahino was brought into the team in January to remedy their attacking woes but he was largely anonymous in the hour he played on Saturday.

The 23-year-old has started just twice since moving from West Brom, where the final goal of his tumultuous spell came over a year ago.

"It's just like any forward - he's got to get into a rhythm of things," said Stoke's Geoff Cameron.

"Once he gets that first goal, then the bundles will come.

"He's playing catch-up so he's got to get sharp again. It will take some time, it's not easy. He knows that and he works hard in training and takes it one day at a time just like anybody else.

"We signed him for a reason, because he's a clinical finisher, he's a good guy on and off the pitch and we're happy to have him."

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