Thomas Tuchel suggested it may be better if Anthony Taylor no longer referees Chelsea’s games but the German played down his row with Antonio Conte after the rival managers clashed moments after Harry Kane rescued a late point for Tottenham at Stamford Bridge.
Tempers were high during a passionate London derby, with Tuchel and Conte both facing touchline bans after being sent off after the final whistle. The two managers had both been booked after squaring up to each other in the wake of the first Spurs equaliser, which Chelsea argued should have been disallowed for a challenge by Rodrigo Bentancur on Kai Havertz and then for offside against Richarlison, and they had to be pulled apart again after full time.
Tuchel reacted furiously when he went to shake hands with Conte, pulling the Spurs manager back and telling him to look him in the eye. “I thought when we shake hands you looked in each other’s eyes,” Chelsea’s head coach said. “He had a different opinion. It was not necessary but a lot of things were not necessary.”
However, Tuchel was quick to laugh off the incident, saying that he enjoyed it and making it clear that he had no bad feelings towards Conte and was more interested in questioning the refereeing.
Chelsea, who led twice through fine efforts from Kalidou Koulibaly and Reece James, were livid with both Spurs goals. Tuchel erupted when Taylor did not penalise Bentancur shortly before Pierre-Emile Højbjerg made it 1-1 midway through the second half and he was even more bewildered when Mike Dean, the video assistant referee, did not penalise Cristian Romero for pulling Marc Cucurella’s hair before the corner that led to Kane equalising in the 96th minute.
It was put to Tuchel that many Chelsea fans bear a historical grudge against Taylor, who has been involved in several controversial incidents with the west London club during his career. An online petition calling for the 43-year-old not to be given Chelsea games attracted more than 80,000 signatures last season and Tuchel answered forcefully when he was asked whether he had the same view as his team’s supporters. “Maybe that would be better,” Tuchel said. “Maybe it would be better but we also have VAR to help make the right decisions.
“Since when can players be pulled by their hair? Since when is that? If he does not see it, I don’t blame him. I didn’t see it but we have people at VAR who check this and then you see it and then what?
“How can this not be a free-kick and how can it not be a red card? How? This does not even have to do with the referee in this case. If he does not see something that’s why we have people to check if there is a decisive error going on.”
Tuchel, who could be charged by the Football Association for his comments, noted that it is not just the fans who think Chelsea have not had the rub of the green with Taylor. “I can assure you that the whole dressing room, every single person thinks that,” he said. “I cannot understand how the first goal is not offside.
“And I cannot understand since when players can pull other people’s hair and stay on the pitch and attack in the last corner. This for me is without any explanation and I don’t want to accept it. I have no words for it. I am curious what the explanation is for that but both goals should not stand and then it’s a fair result. We were brilliant and we deserved to win.”
Conte, who brushed off a clash with the Chelsea midfielder Mateo Kovacic after full time, is set to be banned for Spurs’ home game against Wolves. The Italian celebrated aggressively in front of Tuchel when Højbjerg equalised. Tuchel later sped past the Spurs bench down the touchline when James made it 2-1, but there was more to come.
“If I see aggressivity my answer is aggressivity,” Conte said. “The referee showed me the red card but he didn’t understand the dynamic of what happened. But it is OK. I have to accept.”
Conte, who refused to criticise Taylor’s performance, did not make a big deal of celebrating in front of Tuchel. “Next time we will pay more attention and don’t shake the hands and we solve the problem,” he said. “He stays in his bench, I stay in my bench, with my staff on one side and no problem about this. It would be a pity if for this situation we miss the next game.”
Chelsea are interested in Anthony Gordon, but a deal for the Everton midfielder is unlikely to be this summer. Everton are determined to hold on to the 21-year-old and want to hand him a new deal.