Guus Hiddink accused Watford of trying to provoke Diego Costa after the Chelsea striker was involved in a series of clashes during a feisty 0-0 draw at Vicarage Road.

Costa appeared fortunate to avoid a red card after he pushed over Watford defender Sebastian Prodl and then shoved Juan Carlos Paredes later in the first half.

The second offence infuriated Watford’s players and finally prompted referee Mike Dean to book Costa.

The Spain international had already been given a retrospective three-game ban this season after Dean failed to send him off following clashes with Arsenal pair Laurent Koscielny and Gabriel.

But Chelsea interim manager Hiddink felt Costa was more sinned against than sinner on this occasion.

“It was very clear because we were very close. Paredes punched Diego in his back and after that they stumbled,” Hiddink said.

“This is something we must not do. It’s provocation to get Diego off the pitch.

“The ref saw it and didn’t fall for this provocation. There’s no way Diego was near the guy’s face.

“This is a man’s game, defenders are big guys and sometimes they go over the edge but this is something we must not do.”

Hiddink said Costa never looked like losing his cool, but he did concede serial offender Costa, who reportedly punched a hole in a tunnel walk after rowing with West Bromwich Albion players recently, must do more to keep control of emotions in general.

“Yeah I talked to him but he was calm and in control, there was nothing needed to calm him down,” Hiddink said.

– ‘I love him’ –

“He felt he was provoked and when he is provoked I will protect him. Costa likes to go physical but he must do it within the rules.

“Sometimes players get physical and he has to learn to deal with it.”

While most opposition managers find Costa a pain to confront, Watford boss Quique Sanchez Flores has a different perspective after coaching the forward for a season at Atletico Madrid.

Flores is a big fan of Costa’s fiery personality and had no complaints about his latest antics.

“It was nothing. Contact in the Premier League is normal with this kind of player. There will be contact in every single challenge,” he said.

“I understand Costa, I coached him. He wants to challenge every time. It was nothing special or different happened than what goes on in every stadium in the Premier League every week.”

Flores made a point of embracing Costa after his clash with Paredes in a bid to calm him down and then sought him out again to counsel him at full time.

“I told him I love him. He had great behaviour when we were at Atletico,” Flores added.

“The character is the character and the character is not bad.

“For the coach this kind of character can be amazing. I prefer it to an iceman on the pitch.”

Hiddink remains unbeaten in nine matches in all competitions since replacing the sacked Jose Mourinho and he would have been celebrating a victory on Wednesday but for a series of fine second-half saves from Heurelho Gomes, the Watford goalkeeper who played for the Chelsea chief at PSV Eindhoven.

“I’m disappointed because we didn’t get the deserved three points,” Hiddink said.

“My former goalie Gomes was the man of the match because he made some good saves.

“It’s been a difficult half year for the team, but step by step we are getting back to the way we want to play.” – Agence France-Presse

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