Belfast Telegraph

Pochettino backs his Spurs stars as tempers boil over

By Robert Jones

Mauricio Pochettino refused to condemn his Tottenham players after seeing his team collect nine yellow cards as their Premier League title dream died in a tempestuous clash with Chelsea at Stamford Bridge.

A stormy game, which remarkably ended with 22 players on the pitch, was marred by a series of clashes between the two sets of players, both on the pitch and in the tunnel at the end of the game when Chelsea forward Diego Costa had to be separated from Tottenham's Danny Rose and Michel Vorm.

Costa could face an FA charge after appearing to headbutt Jan Vertonghen, while Mousa Dembele is also likely to face action for poking Costa's eye and also seeming to stamp on Cesc Fabregas.

But despite the behaviour of his players, Spurs manager Pochettino insisted he would only take the positives from their display of passion and commitment.

"We were all involved," the Argentine said. "When you play for a title and play a big team like Chelsea, they want to win and we are the same.

"There is nothing more to say, it was emotion. Fighting on the pitch is not a good example for both teams, but it is hard.

"In football, we all want to win and sometimes a situation like this happens. But for me, it is a good lesson for us, that we need to take and improve. It is a fantastic night for us because it shows we are strong in our mentality and that we fight together."

Pochettino, who saw his team concede a 2-0 lead to draw 2-2, admits he will wait for the FA to decide whether to take action against Dembele.

Spurs took the advantage through goals from Harry Kane and Son Heung-min but Chelsea struck back through Gary Cahill and Eden Hazard.

"I didn't see (Dembele), but I heard about it," Pochettino said. "We will see what happens. I need to see the video, we are on the touchlines.

"But how Chelsea played showed big respect for us. It is a pleasure to play with this intensity, I like to play like this, when the opponent shows you so much respect

"It's a derby and fight for winning the title. Chelsea fight to try to win, but I think that makes us feel very proud of our players, how Chelsea treat this game and show big respect to us.

"It's a competition, we are men and they are men, but we have to show we are strong."

Chelsea interim manager Guus Hiddink revealed he was called by Foxes manager Claudio Ranieri to thank his former club.

"I got a call off Ranieri at the end and he thanked us," Hiddink said. "His voice was trembling, but I don't know if he was crying because it wasn't a FaceTime call! But they deserve it. They didn't implode and got no tension when they started smelling the title."

Hiddink was prepared to go further than Pochettino, however, saying the scenes were 'not good'.

"It was a very emotional and hectic game," Hiddink said. "There were some incidents which were also not good. There was high emotion and a bit of verbal animosity (in the tunnel), so I tried to come in between them.

"There was a lot at stake for Tottenham and a lot of prestige for us, which makes it very hot. It was an emotional game."

Dundee United, meanwhile, were relegated from the Scottish Premiership last night after a 2-1 defeat against rivals Dundee.

Belfast Telegraph


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