Revitalised Costa puts spring back into Chelsea's step
When Chelsea drew 0-0 at Tottenham 12 days ago, and Diego Costa had his disagreement with a bib, he was showered and back on the team coach within a few minutes of the final whistle.
Jose Mourinho said that Costa was lucky not to have been dropped beforehand, adding: "He is probably eating, while waiting for us on the bus."
After Wednesday's victory over Porto at Stamford Bridge, Costa was still talking to the pitchside media, in Spanish and Portuguese, until 11pm, happy to chat away in the cold, even in his tracksuit bottoms and training T-shirt.
Costa was a man transformed, which is how he looked on the pitch. He did not score, but that is not the whole story.
He scored against Norwich but did not especially impress his manager. This, though, was his best performance in months, in which he finally did what Mourinho had been demanding, asking questions of the opposition with his movement.
The Spain international admitted after the match he was still way short of his best but was still confident.
"The bib incident is in the past - it was a mistake," he said. "But my relationship with Mourinho is amazing. We get on really well.
"I have to improve a bit. The start of the season has not been good for me, not in how I have played, or in goals."
Oscar spoke after the game about how impressed he was with his good friend's form after his restoration to the starting XI.
"Diego played well," he said. "He knows he is important for the team. It has been difficult for him. He is a striker, and strikers like to score goals. But he played well. We are confident he will be back to his best very soon. He is very happy now."
The change in Costa, in demeanour and performance, was remarkable. He played as if all of Mourinho's cajoling, in public and private, had finally got through to him.
If Costa plays like this again at Leicester on Monday and then at home against Sunderland and Watford, Chelsea will finally have their spearhead back again. And a fit, hungry Costa improves this whole team.
What it all comes down to is movement. Costa's clever, selfless running without the ball was what helped Chelsea to open up opponents when they stormed their way to the title last season.
His inability or unwillingness to do that this season was one of the reasons, though not the only one, why Chelsea were suddenly so blunt.
The big difference in Costa's game on Wednesday was his running. He did not score and his touch is not as good as it was last season.
But his run in behind the defence made the first goal, while his hold-up play set up the second. (© Independent News Service)