For a figure as volatile as Diego Costa, there was something distinctly predictable about all this. The Chelsea striker had been offered an immediate return to the starting lineup here after an unsettling period marked by lower back spasms and Chinese whispers, and that absence at Leicester last weekend. Yet here he was departing four minutes from time, with the majority in this arena chorusing his name and Antonio Conte offering a thumped hand clap, as the man whose opening goal had deflated Hull and paved the way for an eight-point lead at the top.
Chelsea have no interest in selling their leading scorer this month, whether Tianjin Quanjian offer £80m or £150m. His long-term future can be addressed in the summer but, for now, reintegration almost feels complete, unless those back pains return with a vengeance. The forward was at his committed best here, working feverishly whether leading the line or dropping deep to assist his team-mates. Hull will take heart from their rugged resistance as they contemplate their battle against relegation, but the scriptwriters always had this down as Costa’s occasion. He did not disappoint.
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