LONDON -- Guus Hiddink defended Diego Costa in the face of fresh questions over the striker's temperament after Chelsea were held to a goalless draw by Watford at Vicarage Road.
Costa had already escaped sanction for pushing Sebastian Prodl to the floor when he tussled with Juan Carlos Paredes in front of the managers' technical areas on the stroke of half-time. The Ecuadorian rolled around while clutching his face and, after a prolonged delay, both men were booked by referee Mike Dean.
Hiddink has consistently backed Costa since returning to Stamford Bridge for a second interim spell, and speaking after the match the Dutchman again defended his striker's response to perceived Watford provocation.
"It was close to us and we saw what happened," Hiddink told BT Sport when asked about the incident. "Paredes gave him a push in the back and after that there was a stumbling between the two of them, and then he put his hands to his face and Diego was nowhere near his face.
"They tried to provoke him a bit but I have to defend him on what I see, and that is the reality of what we saw just in front of our eyes.
"[Costa] knows he was provoked. When things are going wrong they go wrong, but when they are provoked I protect my players and I think it's very fair. He was very calm at half-time. We were just focusing on our goal and he was focusing on that and not on other provocations."
Watford captain Troy Deeney insisted that Costa deserved to be booked for his role in the altercation, but revealed he will speak to Paredes about the Ecuadorian's reaction to avoid a repeat in future matches.
"It's new age football, isn't it?" Deeney asked. "One little touch and everyone goes rolling around. My opinion was that the ref had spoken to him previously, so if he's going to speak to him again then surely it's a yellow card. That's all I was asking. To be fair, it's just handbags between everyone and modern day football.
"I remember playing Sunday League and that wouldn't have happened. The age that we live in, everyone pushes each other and rolls around trying to get the other person sent off. I don't really like it personally and I'll be having a word with Paredes on our side."
Chelsea took until the 60th minute to register their first shot on target at Vicarage Road, but Watford goalkeeper Heurelho Gomes was voted man of the match after making several key saves during the closing exchanges and Hiddink believes his team did enough to earn all three points.
"I think we were worth a win," he insisted. "The only period we had a bit of difficulty was in the first 10 minutes when they pushed but had no clear chances.
"They are dangerous at set-pieces, corners, free-kicks etcetera, but in the second half we didn't have much of a problem. We controlled [the game] and in the last 20 minutes we deserved to win. We had a threat on both wings and in the centre. Gomes will be the man of the match, I think."