Diego Costa probably shouldn’t have even been on the field in the first place, but Diego Costa wouldn’t have it any other way.
The Premier League’s favorite heel survived a potential second yellow card to rescue the Blues with an 89th minute winner, giving new manager Antonio Conte all three points in his first Premier League match.
Eden Hazard buried a penalty to give Chelsea a first-half lead, but it looked a howitzer from James Collins against the run of play with 13 minutes to go would force the two sides to share the points. Conte was unmoved, making tactical adjustments along with pacey substitutions, and the players delivered.
The Blues had the first real chance on goal 12 minutes in as Branislav Ivanovic wrong-footed his defender on the edge of the area with a nice cutback and tried to squeeze a shot inside the near post, but Adrian reacted quickly to keep the game scoreless. Five minutes later Oscar went down at the top of the box looking for a penalty, and in the aftermath Diego Costa earned himself a yellow card, and Collins was cautioned for bringing down the striker on 20 minutes.
[ MORE: Premier League standings ]
Just past the half-hour mark, Hazard rifled just wide from a tight angle after slicing past three Hammers defenders. The rest of the first half was quiet, but the second half started with a bang.
Just a minute in, Michail Antonio barged into the back of Cesar Azpilicueta in the penalty area, leaving the referee no choice but to award a penalty. Hazard buried the spot kick, and Chelsea had its lead, as well as a milestone goal.
[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights ]
There was a bit of controversy surrounding – guess who! – Diego Costa, who scythed down Adrian while already on a yellow. It appeared a heavy challenge, but the referee left it unpunished other than awarding a common foul.
In the 77th minute, the game changed. Chelsea seemed in control, but the Hammers earned themselves a pair of set-pieces. Dimitri Payet – on as a substitute – was unsuccessful with a free-kick just outside the box, but moments later the Frenchman delivered a corner that ping-ponged around the box, eventually falling to Collins near the penalty spot who ripped a fizzing equalizer into the back of the net.
[ MORE: Full lineups, stats, box score ]
Chelsea began to bypass the midfield in an attempt to get back on top, pumping the ball forward over the final 10 minutes, and while the first few attempts were sloppy, substitutes Victor Moses, Pedro, and Michy Batshuyai were used effectively for their pace and technical abilities. Pedro came close in the final five minutes, but Chelsea would have their moment.
A long ball from midfield found the head of Batshuyai, who laid it off to Costa outside the top of the box. A pair of West Ham defenders failed to close him down, and the Spanish international let rip a low effort past Adrian and into the far corner. The goal sent Stamford Bridge into a frenzy, and Conte predictably participated in the pandimonium with a wild celebration.