Costa brace rescues ragged Chelsea at Swansea
Diego Costa scored twice, including an 81st-minute equaliser, as Antonio Conte maintained his unbeaten start to life as Chelsea manager in a 2-2 draw at Swansea City on Sunday.
The irrepressible Costa levelled with a deflected but spectacular overhead bicycle kick after Branislav Ivanovic’s shot had been sent spinning in his direction.
The goal, Costa’s fourth in as many games, spared Conte from his first loss in English football after two controversial Swansea goals in three second-half minutes had cancelled out Costa’s opener.
That passage of play marked an incredible turnaround for the Welsh side, who had been second-best against a Chelsea team seeking a win to join Manchester City at the top of the Premier League table.
The visitors were made to pay for their string of misses in the 59th minute when a rare Swansea attack saw Modou Barrow cross for Gylfi Sigurdsson, who was tripped by Chelsea goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois.
Courtois was booked and Sigurdsson converted the ensuing penalty himself.
Just three minutes later, Gary Cahill was caught in possession by Leroy Fer 25 yards from the Chelsea goal.
Television replays suggested the defender had been fouled, but Fer was allowed to advance before rolling the ball beneath Courtois.
The Belgian goalkeeper scrambled back, but could not prevent the ball crossing the line.
Costa first struck 18 minutes into a half of almost relentless Chelsea pressure after Swansea’s defensive frailties were exposed.
Goalkeeper Lukasz Fabianski elected not to collect a cross and Federico Fernandez’s two poor headers failed to clear the danger.
Oscar pounced on the loose ball and neatly teed up Costa to unleash an impressive curling finish from just inside the Swansea area.
– Flying Fabianski –
By that stage, Chelsea had already wasted at least two very good chances, Willian’s terrific shot stinging Fabianski’s hands and the goalkeeper saving well from the Brazilian’s cross-shot.
After taking the lead, the visitors remained equally impressive, with Fabianski saving well from Eden Hazard, who surged into a shooting position from just inside the Swansea half.
Not until the 40th minute did Swansea have a real sight of goal when Fer’s drive through the middle saw the ball break to Sigurdsson, whose curling shot flew just beyond the left-hand post.
Chelsea responded instantly and should have doubled their lead, with Costa missing a far easier opening than the one he had converted earlier, shooting wide of an open goal from a Willian corner.
By that stage, Swansea manager Francesco Guidolin had already abandoned his game-plan of playing with three defenders, changing to a back four and hooking the unfortunate Neil Taylor.
The new formation brought no immediate change in fortune, with Jordi Amat joining fellow centre-back Fernandez in earning a yellow card for a foul on Costa.
Amat’s feud with the Spain international striker might have seen him dismissed in the minutes that followed.
The two Swansea goals followed in quick succession.
As Chelsea pushed for a response, Hazard inexplicably pulled out of a challenge with Fabianski on the edge of the Swansea area, when he looked capable of equalising.
Moments later, Oscar’s 20-yard shot was superbly saved by the flying Fabianski.
Kyle Naughton denied Costa a far-post header from Hazard’s chipped cross, while Oscar’s low drive narrowly missed the target.
After Chelsea’s second goal, only a brilliant Fabianski save denied Costa a hat-trick and the visitors all three points.
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