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Conte praises Costa, Fàbregas, and Chelsea's 'great maturity and intelligence'

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Another test passed for Chelsea on Sunday then, in what was perhaps the hardest fought three points in the nine-match winning streak, as West Brom defended strongly, staunchly, sternly and were only undone by a tremendous individual effort and finish from Diego Costa.  Not that we should expect anything less from a Tony Pulis-drilled side.

Afterwards, Antonio Conte paid tribute to his team's persistence and ability to eventually put enough pressure on the visitors to force an error and make the all-important breakthrough.

"It was a very difficult game but we knew it would be, I spoke a lot in the week about the difficulty of the game because we faced a very tough team, very physical and difficult to break down."

"I'm pleased today because this game was very difficult and I like to see my team fight in the same way as West Brom, it wasn't easy, but they showed me great character and a great motivation to win."

"I'd prefer to score early and take the lead but we know it's not easy in this league. We are working very well on different aspects, not only tactical, but physical, to arrive at the end and play with great intensity, to run and to put great pressure on."

Conte changed the team's shape at least three times in the second-half as we looked for the "right solution".  While the goal itself was due more to individual effort and hustle and persistence than any tactical masterstroke, the team's adaptability surely added a new challenge for the visitors' defense who seemed fairly comfortable in dealing with the standard 3-4-3 setup by essentially playing a back six with three shielding midfielders.

It was, unsurprisingly, Cesc Fàbregas who ended up providing the pass before the goal.  The midfielder's game-changing ability remains an important weapon for Chelsea, even if he's not starting.

"Cesc is an important player for us. We all know his quality, it's very clear. Today it was important to change the cards on the table and find a new solution to cut the point of reference for West Brom. I put on a player who is very good technically, and with a great personality."

Cesc himself said that it was Costa who "made the pass special" in the post-match interview with BT Sport, and that was just the tip of the incoming praise for Chelsea's Man of the Match.  Conte, who had called Costa a warrior prior to the match, was obviously very happy with the big man's contributions, including a ninth match in a row without a yellow card.

"He's showing great passion, he likes to play football. He's showing me great commitment and work-rate with and without the ball to help the team. It's important for him to continue in this way, I'm very happy with him. Diego is a great striker and he can continue to improve his football but I'm satisfied with the work we are doing with him and the team."

"January is arriving and it's incredible because after the Arsenal defeat he had four yellow cards, he was on the edge and he continued to stay on the edge. I think he can arrive in January without a yellow card, I hope he can."

Nemanja Matić and N'Golo Kanté did go into referee Mike Dean's book, which means that they now join Costa and David Luiz on four yellow cards for the season.  The card amnesty kicks in at the end of December, which leaves four games for the foursome in which to avoid a yellow card.  Chances are, not all four of them will make it through unscathed.

As always, the focus now shifts to the next game, which is coming up in 72 hours.  Just have to keep this intensity going and make it ten wins in a row.

"I'm pleased because we showed great maturity and intelligence to find the right solution. It's another clean sheet and now it's important to think about the next game away at Sunderland. We have only two days to prepare for the game but we must be focused, it's an important period. Christmas is very difficult for all the teams so it's important to win, be focused and play football with good intensity."

-Antonio Conte; source: Chelsea FC