Chelsea salute new hero Diego Costa as old one Didier Drogba returns
London: Stamford Bridge offered a heartfelt ovation to a returning hero after delivering a hymn of adulation to an emerging one as Chelsea underlined their title intent with a 2-0 win over dogged Leicester City on Saturday.
When Diego Costa came off 10 minutes from time and embraced his illustrious replacement, almost 10 years to the week since Didier Drogba first made his debut for Chelsea, the standing ovation for their beloved Ivorian felt quite emotional.
As the Spain striker rested satisfied on the bench, it was his name which kept reverberating around the ground after his second goal in two games since his 32 million pounds ($53.02 million) move from Atletico Madrid, and his first at home, broke the resistance of a Leicester team that had given the Premier League title favourites a searching test for more than an hour.
Costa, who hardly had a look-in during the first half thanks to the meaty defiance of captain Wes Morgan at the back, finally unlocked the Leicester defence as Chelsea cranked up the pressure, controlling a cross from Branislav Ivanovic on his chest with aplomb before bundling the ball past the seemingly unbeatable Kasper Schmeichel after 62 minutes.
A brilliant individual run and searing, if deflected, strike in the 77th minute from Eden Hazard sealed a victory that could turn out to be significant as the season progresses particularly if promoted Leicester can keep replicating the crispness of their passing and combative nature of their midfield.
City look nobody`s pushovers and earned high praise from Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho.
He felt Leicester had played to win and noted how important keeper Thibaut Courtois`s speed of thought was to advance and block David Nugent`s second-half effort when it seemed odds-on that the former England striker would put the visitors ahead.
Ultimately, though, it was Mourinho`s "emotional" outburst at halftime that worked wonders as Chelsea claimed their second victory in as many league games this season.
His men, the manager claimed, had perhaps been lulled into being "lazy" in the first half by the warm weather.
"At halftime I had to be a bit emotional with them and make them realise it was not good enough," he said.
"I told them `If you have the same feeling and vision I have, we are not in trouble because we change. If you don`t agree then we are in trouble`."
Mourinho`s commands were swiftly obeyed.
Chelsea dramatically awoke in the second period, their quality overflowing.
Schmeichel made two stupendous saves from Ivanovic that his dad Peter, formerly of Manchester United and Denmark, would have been proud of and even when he was beaten by Oscar`s strike from the edge of the box, the woodwork saved Leicester.
Costa`s intervention was then just as crucial as his opening goal was in Monday`s 3-1 triumph at Burnley.
Last season, Mourinho must have thought, Chelsea might havesquandered the chance to land three points on Saturday, such was the profligacy of their strike force.
In the bustling, bristling handful that is Costa, though, it already looks as if Mourinho has found one of the keys to ensuring that he does not go an unprecedented third successive season without winning a league title. "I got the feeling in pre-season that adaptation wouldn`t be a big deal," Mourinho said of the Spain striker.
"Easy guy, happy guy, not speaking good English, but always communicating and (having) big integration in the team."
Drogba`s ecstatic late introduction as a substitute against Leicester was not marked by the fairytale whiff of a 101st league goal for the club he rejoined in the close season but at least he was Mourinho`s preferred second striker with Fernando Torres not even finding on the bench.
Still, Torres has an important future at the club, reckoned Mourinho, as he dismissed media reports the Spaniard would be sent out on loan.
Asked if he would stay, Mourinho said: "Yes, I believe so. I want three strikers in the team and I want him. He will play, he will score goals, he will be very useful for us. He`s a fantastic player, a fantastic professional."