Diego Costa picked up an early booking for dissent and in a bid to spark a reaction from the striker, Stoke players targeted Costa to try and get him sent off. "He is a type of player who is very hard to stop and for this reason you try to stop him with a good or bad way", Conte said.
"You can still have an edge, an element where you can look after yourself, but you don't have to have the rest".
In a moment of clarity, Costa did play the pass to release Alonso in the build up to Willian's free-kick goal, but much of his opening 45 minutes was a running battle with Stoke defenders, who appeared to be taking turns to foul and rile him. "He is adept at the dark arts and everyone in football recognises that".
Chelsea's relentless march towards the Premier League title continued at the bet365 Stadium where a late Gary Cahill goal gave them a 2-1 victory over Stoke City in a predictably feisty encounter. Conte, however, thought that was a perfectly legitimate tactic.
"I think he realised that and has made a little bit more of a meal of the slight push".
"I think it takes away from his performance and his image as a player, it's not necessary".
I know that in previous seasons he has received a yellow card early and reacted badly but this season he has shown a great commitment and to play for the team and not himself. It was a little bit feisty, we gave everything and I can not criticise our players.
Costa was frequently in collision with his players - principally Ryan Shawcross and Bruno Martins Indi - and was booked for simulation in the first half after often going down claiming a foul.
The Blues led after 13 minutes when Willian caught Lee Grant out with a near-post free-kick for his first top-flight goal since scoring a double in the reverse of this fixture in December. "That's what makes you champions".
"We wanted a competitive game and I think that's what it was".
"You have to say that they are the toughest challenge we will face because they are the most consistent team and have a way of playing which, tactically, is hard to go up against. For this reason, we won today", said Conte.