Hull's Mason suffers fractured skill
This was a routine victory with Diego Costa returning and scoring the opening goal but, as news gradually filtered through about Ryan Mason's injury, it was difficult for anyone to care too much about goals and points.
Chelsea 2 Hull City 0
Mason suffered a fractured skull in a sickening first-half clash of heads with Gary Cahill and, in a statement late last night, Hull City confirmed that the midfielder had undergone surgery.
"Ryan is in a stable condition and is expected to remain in hospital for the next few days," they said.
The 25-year-old former Tottenham player and Chelsea's Cahill collided in Hull's box after 14 minutes. Both medical teams rushed to the scene as referee Neil Swarbrick stopped play. Cahill quickly returned to his feet and readied himself to return to the action.
Mason received treatment for around six minutes before departing on a stretcher, while receiving oxygen. David Meyler replaced him. The Corkman tweeted last night: "Tough game today at Stamford Bridge. Hope @RyanMason is okay. All thinking of you bud."
The game itself had been all about Costa, who scored along with Cahill as Chelsea powered eight points clear at the top of the Premier League with just 16 games remaining.
Costa had been dropped for the previous week's trip to Leicester City after having his head turned by a £30m salary offer from Tianjin Quanjian. Chelsea always insisted that Costa was not for sale and Conte said that the striker's goal-scoring return meant that he was going nowhere this January.
But when Conte was asked whether Costa would sign a new deal to secure his future beyond this season, he could offer no assurances.
"It is important Diego played a good game, and I hope with this game to finish the speculation about him, about me and him, and about Chelsea," Conte said.
"I think we showed that we are a team with a great unity, and I think this is the real value that helps us stay top of the table."
Costa's Chelsea contract lasts until June 2019 meaning that the club will have to either sell him or offer him a new deal this summer, when he will have two years left.
It is no secret that Costa wanted to go back to Atletico Madrid last summer, or that he wanted to go to China earlier this month. While a new deal would secure Costa's future, Conte could not promise that he would sign one.
"Diego has two years of contract, before his contract expires with Chelsea," he said. "I think his contract puts to an end all the speculation. I repeat: he's very happy to stay with us and to play with Chelsea."
Conte conceded that Chelsea were not at their best against Hull but was pleased with the professionalism they showed.
Had Costa not put Chelsea ahead in the seventh minute of first-half added time, it might have been a very different game. Chelsea were well frustrated by Hull and looked at risk of not taking advantage of helpful results earlier this weekend.
But all season Chelsea have had that quick switch out to Victor Moses as their secret weapon to catch opponents off guard. Here it was Marcos Alonso who delivered it, driving the ball across to Moses, overlapping down the right.
Andy Robertson could not get out to stop him so Moses drove a low cross into the box. The ball zipped along between four Hull defenders to Costa, alert as ever, who put the ball into the corner of the net.
Conte urged the Chelsea fans to support Costa and they were unanimous in cheering his name, giving him a standing ovation when he was taken off in the last minute.
By that point Chelsea were 2-0 up and this win, devoid of drama or spectacle, still felt like one of their most important of the season, with GCahill adding a second from a close-range header.
Hull might have had a penalty when Abel Hernandez was tripped by Alonso, but just like everything else at the moment, the decision went Chelsea's way. (© Independent. News Service)
Who is your sportstar of the year?
Vote in the Irish Independent Sport Star Awards and you could win the ultimate sports prize.
Prizes include, tickets to Ireland's against Scotland in the Six Nations, All Ireland football and hurling final tickets and much more.