London: Tempers ran high and reached boiling point with managers of both teams being given marching orders at the end of a pulsating London derby from which Tottenham Hotspur managed a 2-2 draw against Chelsea. There was certainly no lack of entertainment in this enthralling match in which the refereeing was poor and Chelsea would be regarded as unfortunate not to emerge clear winners.
Chelsea manager Thomas Tuchel attempted to play down the bad feeling between the managers: “We got involved because both of us were fighting for our teams. We did not insult each other, did not hit each other, didn’t have a fist fight. So, it’s not a big deal.”
On pulling Antonio Conte towards his face during their frosty handshake, Tuchel said: “I thought when you shake hands you look into each other’s eyes. Antonio had a different opinion. We’re emotional coaches and that’s it. It got a bit heated. There are no hard feelings. It was a fair tackle from him and a fair tackle from me.”
He added: “I’m surprised we both got a red card. It was not necessary but a lot of things were not necessary and another poor decision from the ref today. I’m sorry but sometimes a match gets you totally. This match sucked me in.”
He fumed: “I cannot understand how the first (Spurs) goal is not off side. And I cannot understand since when can players pull other people’s hair and stay on the pitch as in the last corner (before the second goal).”
Chelsea dominated the play throughout the first half and opened the scoring in the 19th minute when new signing, Kalidou Koulibaly struck a firm right-foot volley from a corner. But mid-way in the second half, the visitors equalised. Kai Harertz was tripped by Rodrigo Bentancur, which the referee ignored and after Jorginho lost possession. Son Heung-Min eventually passed to Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg whose low shot beat Edouard Mendy and Conte celebrated encroaching into the Chelsea area.
Chelsea’s lead was restored in the 77th minute with Reece James unmarked on the right, ramming in a shot after receiving a pass from Raheem Sterling. This time Conte was irked by the fired-up Tuchel’s celebration as he sprinted down the touch line and directly in front of Conte.
Finally, in the 6th (last) minute of stoppage time, Spurs won a corner and as the ball came over, Cristian Romero pulled the long hair of Marc Cucurella – which the referee missed again – hindering him from going for the ball, and Harry Kane was able to score with a glancing header to draw level.
At this point matters erupted with the managers, players, officials all getting involved. At the handshake bust-up Tuchel gripped Conte’s hand and wouldn’t let go while Conte attempted just a cursory touch of hands. The two managers were eventually separated and the astonished spectators had witnessed quite a spectacle.
Spurs manager, Antonio Conte said: “The referee showed me the red card but he didn’t understand the dynamic of what happened, but it’s ok I have to accept. For sure I’m not passive. If I see aggression, then my answer is aggressive, but this is not a problem. Next time we will pay more attention and not shake hands. He stays in his bench and I stay in my bench.”