Thomas Tuchel says ‘match sucked me in’ as he and Antonio Conte saw red

Managers marauding down the Stamford Bridge sidelines in celebration or confrontation is hardly a new thing.

But even the ‘Special One’ Jose Mourinho might have raised an eyebrow at the antics of two of his successors in the Chelsea hotseat on Sunday evening.

Blues boss Thomas Tuchel and Tottenham head coach Antonio Conte went head-to-head, nay face-to-face, even nose-to-nose in an escalating squabble that ended with both receiving post-match red cards.

“It was hot from the temperature, hot between the benches, hot on the field and hot between the spectators – everything you want and hope for in a match like this early in the season,” said Tuchel with a smile.

While the touchline tiff threatened to overshadow a thrilling Premier League affair, Tuchel was arguably more angry with referee Anthony Taylor at the final whistle than he was with chirpy counterpart Conte.

So what exactly did happen in another fiery London derby that ended in a 2-2 draw?

Spurs equaliser lights the fire

Believe it or not, a match that contained so much chaos in its final quarter was actually a relatively calm occasion – with few fouls and just two cautions – up until the 68th minute when all hell broke loose.

That was when Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg’s 20-yard daisy-cutter cancelled out Kalidou Koulibaly’s volleyed opener – and former Blues boss Conte irked Tuchel with his animated, fist-pumping jubilation.

Tuchel squared up to his opposite number before both benches and officials stepped up to separate the pair as Chelsea’s protestations about the legitimacy of the goal began.

Kai Havertz complained he had been fouled by Rodrigo Bentancur in the build-up, while Spurs substitute Richarlison appeared offside and in the line of sight of Chelsea keeper Edouard Mendy when Hojbjerg let fly.

Chelsea felt justice was served when Reece James rifled them back ahead nine minutes later, sparking a Mourinho-esque charge down the sidelines from Tuchel,

But then, in the final minute of six added on, Harry Kane’s glancing header snatched Spurs a barely-deserved point.

Cue more pandemonium in the dugouts as Conte and Tuchel again clashed, the latter enraged by Cristian Romero’s hair pull on full-back Marc Cucurella at the corner that preceded Kane’s goal.

“I think both goals are irregular and this is very hard to accept in times of VAR,” Tuchel told BBC Sport. “I’m sorry to say but the referee had the decisive role today, nobody else.

“Both their goals cannot stand. There was a clear foul on Kai and the situation goes on and on. Richarlison was offside and when can you pull hair on a football field?

“I cannot understand how the first goal is not offside and I cannot understand how players can pull others’ hair and stay on the pitch. This is for me without any explanation and I don’t want to accept any.

Tuchel even went as far to suggest Taylor should not officiate future Chelsea games.

“I don’t think that just some of the fans think that – I can assure you that the whole dressing room of us, every person thinks that,” he added.

Both managers were keen to play down their spats after the match, although Tuchel criticised what he felt was a lack of sincerity in Conte’s post-match handshake – and the latter was hardly contrite.

“I thought when we shake hands you looked in each other’s eyes, he had a different opinion – it was not necessary, but a lot of things were not necessary,” the German, 48, told Sky Sports.

Conte, meanwhile, refused to be pressed on the flare-ups, adding: “If there’s a problem, it’s between me and him.

“I think that what happened, we did enjoy. Next time I will pay more attention, just shake the hand and solve the problem. I’ll stay on my bench, he’ll stay on his bench.”

A repentant Tuchel even issued a half-apology for his raucous celebration when Chelsea regained the lead.

“In the middle of it I thought I should not do this, but sometimes a match gets you totally, this match sucked me in,” he admitted.

“It was pure joy and it may offend the opposition, but they did the same when they equalised.”

“There’s no hard feelings – I feel like it was a fair tackle from him and a fair tackle from me,” was Tuchel’s further analogy of the situation.

“We did not insult each other, we did not hit each other, we were fighting for our teams. I’m surprised that we both got a red card for that.”

Since the Premier League was formed, Spurs have lost 22 times in all competitions at Stamford Bridge, drawing 12 and winning just once, perhaps excusing their excitement at rescuing a rare point there.

“Stamford Bridge hasn’t been our best place over the years so to come away with a point, especially at the end, was a good feeling,” admitted Tottenham’s England skipper Kane.

“It’s disappointing to see the red cards. Obviously it was an emotional game, a London derby, the passion from both sides, both teams wanted to win. That’s sometimes what happens in these games.”

All eyes will now be on the return game in February – barring any cup meeting before then.

bbc.com