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Rob Holding on his battle with Diego Costa

It was one of the abiding images of the 2017 Emirates FA Cup final: Diego Costa snarling at Rob Holding after a robust challenge, and the young centre back simply laughing in response.

It told the story of a defender refusing to be intimidated by a player who had roughed up most Premier League defenders in his time.

It immediately bought Holding hero status in the eyes of many Arsenal fans.

“I knew Diego Costa’s game was to wind up centre halves,” he told Arsenal Player. “I’d seen it many times, watching the games on TV and how he would always wind people up off the ball. 

“I knew he’d try something with me being young, I knew he’d think he could bully me a bit but I just stood up to him. I think we did that well.

“When you’re hot, frustrated and wanting to do well, you get that bit of passion which comes out inside you. If any other Chelsea player had done something to me, I would give them a bit back because I was brought up like that. I was brought up to never shy away from anything. 

“I’m not sure how he changed his game [afterwards], but I just think he knew that he wasn’t going to intimidate me. I think that’s what he thought he was going to do because of the age difference. Once he saw I stood up to him, he thought, ‘I’ll try something else here’.”

Holding has a 100 per cent record at Wembley, having won ion each of his three visits there, but it was his first - the FA Cup semi-final against Manchester City - that he admits he was most nervous about.

But there was not a hint of it when, in the 66th minute he raced back towards his own goal with Sergio Aguero in hot pursuit, before impudently spinning away from him and strolling back upfield. 

“I’ve watched it back a few times because at the time I didn’t know what I was doing!” he said. “I was just defending channels, running it, bringing it back and defending, looking for a pass. 

“When there wasn’t a pass on, I just put my foot on the ball and ended up doing a nice bit of footwork. He went down and I got away from him.”

 

 

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