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Dublin: 7°C Saturday 8 May 2021

Diego Costa's neck nuzzle and more Premier League/FA Cup talking points

Meanwhile, Ireland international Shane Long delivered an impressive display in Southampton’s victory.

Chelsea's Diego Costa, centre right, is shown a red card by referee Michael Oliver.
Chelsea's Diego Costa, centre right, is shown a red card by referee Michael Oliver.
Image: AP/Press Association Images

1. Costa’s neck nuzzle completes miserable day for Chelsea

QUITE AMAZINGLY, TODAY was the first time Diego Costa received a red card since arriving in English football.

The Brazilian-born footballer is a perpetual wind-up merchant, so it was hardly a surprise today when he was sent off for a second booking following what appeared to be a bizarre neck nuzzle on Everton’s Gareth Barry.

Some people claim Costa’s anger is a by-product of his brilliance and that attempts to nullify his nasty habits would make him a lesser footballer.

Yet whatever about showing aggression and playing with an edge, silly incidents such as the one today benefit no one.

Costa consequently needs to play with greater self-discipline in future. Otherwise, he risks becoming renowned as a liability owing to his consistently indefensible actions.

2. Impressive Shane Long helps Saints down Stoke

While Martin O’Neill may have been concerned by the sight of Jon Walters sitting on the Stoke substitutes’ bench once again today, the performance of Shane Long will have given the Ireland manager cause for optimism at the Britannia Stadium.

Long was his usual effervescent self, showing more energy than anyone else on the field and constantly posing problems for the Stoke defence, with his work-rate and intelligent use of the ball prominent aspects of Southampton’s victory.

He may not have scored in the 2-1 victory, but the Tipperary native gave the kind of influential display that he has been regularly producing this season.

Having struggled to get in the side last year, Long now appears to have a spot nailed down in the first XI, keeping the likes of Sadio Mane out of the starting team in the process.

Long hasn’t always been a regular at international level, but in the form he’s in currently, O’Neill will find it difficult to leave him out of the side

3. Man City’s title bid in tatters

Before today’s disappointing 0-0 draw with Norwich, Manchester City manager Manuel Pellegrini suggested his side needed to win nine out of their last 10 Premier League matches to win the title.

And even if Pellegrini’s side do go on to fulfill his ambition after their latest setback, it would require a mini-collapse from leaders Leicester for the Etihad outfit to have any hope of success.

With nine games to play, they trail the Foxes by nine points. Moreover, they also would require slip-ups from Arsenal and Tottenham, who are currently ahead of them in third and second respectively.

The way this season’s gone, it would be foolish to rule City out completely, but there was nothing in this afternoon’s lacklustre display at Carrow Road to suggest they are capable of launching a belated title charge.

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Paul Fennessy

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