After an uncharacteristically feeble start by Chelsea to the defence of their Premier League title, the return of Diego Costa’s fiery temperament was just what Jose Mourinho needed to rouse his under-performers against Arsenal.
Job done. Even if Costa will do little to endear Chelsea to the neutrals.
There was no goal from last season’s top scorer in yesterday’s 2-0 victory at Stamford Bridge but the hot-headed striker’s contribution seemed even more significant. Costa managed to escape being dismissed for lashing out at Laurent Koscielny before appearing to incite Gabriel Paulista into being sent off for a retaliatory kick on him right in front of the referee.
“He can do what he wants and stays on,” Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger said. “I think it is unacceptable behaviour ... he will do the same next week and the week after and he always gets away with it. It’s always provocation.”
Arsenal were a man down just before half-time and Chelsea made a flying start to the second half. Kurt Zouma headed in the opener after dislodging captain John Terry – a mainstay in Mourinho’s side – from the starting line-up.
A reckless, but not malicious, sliding tackle on Cesc Fabregas by Santi Cazorla earned the Arsenal midfielder a second yellow card in the 79th minute.
“It was very accidental,” Wenger said.
Arsenal had to cope with nine men and Eden Hazard completed Chelsea’s derby triumph in stoppage time with a deflected strike.
This was the day everything went Mourinho’s way against Wenger, his arch adversary, following a spluttering start to the league campaign that had seen Chelsea lose three out of the five games before yesterday.
Not only did Hazard claim his first goal of a season, having struggled to match the player-of-the-year exploits of 2014-15 until now, but Fabregas claimed his first assist after setting up more goals than anyone else in the league last year.
More significantly for Mourinho, it maintained his unbeaten record against Wenger in competitive games after last month losing the Community Shield to Arsenal.
For Wenger, it was hard to take.
“[There is a] big sense of injustice,” he said. “I think Diego Costa is a red card.
“I wouldn’t like to be [referee] Mike Dean tonight because I cannot understand the situations. Twice he [Costa] should have been sent off.
“Look at the situation well before the cross comes in, he hits him [Koscielny] in the face on purpose.
“He makes a fuss of it. In every game there is aggravation but he gets away with it because of the weakness of the referee. We are guilty because we gave in on that and responded to it. We knew before the game that he was only looking for that and when he touches him he goes down like he has been killed.”
In response, Mourinho said: “The game is about all different aspects. The technical, emotional, physical and with a combination of these factors normally the best team wins. We were the best team. We were dominant, we were in control.
“I played my first derby as manager in September 2000 and I remember my words to my players. To win the derby – emotional control. I always repeat the same words before derbies.
“For me it was a fantastic performance [from Costa]. He played the game like the game has to be played. He’s fast, he’s aggressive and he’s good to recover the ball and offers us different qualities.”