It is quite astonishing that Diego Costa was only receiving his first red card in the colours of Chelsea on Saturday in their FA Cup defeat to Everton.
The reason for this astonishment may also come as a surprise, but that would be for someone who hasn’t followed the striker’s career – at least since he moved to England.
The belief that striker’s shouldn’t be receiving red cards surely doesn’t apply to the Brazil-born Spain international because his fiery and feisty style sees him hounding opponents in more off-the-ball incidents than on it.
So it when these are put in perspective, it is quite easy to understand my astonishment at him only just receiving his first red card since he joined Chelsea.
He has been involved in several off-the-ball incidents of which most don’t make the headlines because they probably don’t go beyond the usual but there is still a sense of angst at the Emirates that he wasn’t sent off for another off-the-ball incident with Gabriel Paulista.
On Saturday, and with Chelsea already down by two goals from their former striker Romelu Lukaku, Costa showed again, what we have come to know him for as he jumped to retaliate to a Gareth Barry tackle even though referee Michael Oliver had blown for a free-kick in his favour.
He hit his chest against Barry’s, and then proceeded to trying to head-butt him, probably trying to draw a reaction from the Englishman and when he realized Barry wouldn’t fall into the trap like Gabriel did, he aimed for his neck, opened his mouth and appeared to take a bite.
He apparently realized the enormity of this one – the fact that he may have gone too far – he retracted and hugged the former Manchester City midfielder instead, but referee Oliver had seen enough to show him his first red card in English football.
If it were possible to issue two red cards to the same player in one match, he probably would have received a second given his reaction to Oliver, also appearing to try to get into the referee’s face.
It is not in doubt that Costa has a lively spirit and is a fighter, but he must know he has probably taken it too far this time. The FA will surely look into the incident even though Roberto Martinez and Barry’s post-match comments may have given him some hope of avoiding a serious punishment.
But it surely still depends on the kind of message the FA wants to send and whichever way you look at it, it sure looks like he’s going to be suspended and fined for the incident.
Luis Suarez got a 10-game ban for his bite on Branislav Ivanovic and while Costa’s case may not be that severe, you have to wonder if his style has now become very toxic for Chelsea and if it has, the question should be; what next?