Conte leaves Costa on against the striker's wishes

LONDON • Antonio Conte revealed he ignored Diego Costa's request to be substituted because the Chelsea striker's passion is important.

The Spaniard scored his seventh Premier League goal of the season as Chelsea beat spluttering champions Leicester City 3-0 at Stamford Bridge on Saturday. But the volatile player still managed to create a fuss with his demonstrative, but unsuccessful, attempt to convince Blues manager Conte to substitute him in the 70th minute.

Costa was one booking away from being suspended for Sunday's home clash with Manchester United and, with the game against Leicester well in control, he gestured that he wanted to come off.

He even clutched his legs as if struggling with injury in the closing stages, but Conte was unmoved.

"If I can, I keep Costa until the end of the game. Costa is an important player for us," Conte said. "He has passion and we need his passion in every moment of the game."

The Italian also stuck to his beliefs about playing with three central defenders, after Chelsea leaked too many goals, and was rewarded with a second straight clean sheet despite leaving fit-again captain John Terry on the bench.

"This system suits the talents of all our players," he said.

Claudio Ranieri's Leicester are 11 points behind leaders Manchester City after their fourth loss this term. That is more defeats than they suffered last season and they are the first English champions to lose four successive away games since Blackburn Rovers in 1995-96.

Ranieri conceded he might have unsettled his team by resting three key figures, including last season's Player of the Year Riyad Mahrez, ahead of tomorrow's Champions League clash with Copenhagen. But he said: "We want to go in the knockout (stages) in the Champions League. To achieve this, you have to have all your players fit."

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 17, 2016, with the headline 'Conte leaves Costa on against the striker's wishes'. Print Edition | Subscribe