Wednesday 21 February 2018

Gouging controversy could see Torres hit with four-match ban

Tottenham 1 Chelsea 1

Fernando Torres gets to grips with Tottenham Hotspur's Jan Vertonghen
Fernando Torres gets to grips with Tottenham Hotspur's Jan Vertonghen

Gerry Cox

FERNANDO TORRES could be the first player in the dock under a new English FA disciplinary system being trialled this season.

The Chelsea striker faces the prospect of his one-match ban for being dismissed at White Hart Lane being extended to four if he is found guilty of violent conduct for gouging the face of Tottenham's Jan Vertonghen.

Torres was dismissed in the 82nd minute of an enthralling match after being shown the yellow card for the second time following an aerial clash with Vertonghen.

The pair had been going hammer-and-tongs all afternoon, and the Spaniard received his initial caution in the 50th minute after tripping Vertonghen and then digging his fingernails into the face and neck of the Belgian defender.

The caution appeared to be just for the trip. If this is confirmed in the match report of referee Mike Dean today, the FA will ask the official if he saw the gouging incident.

If he says he did not, a copy will be sent not to the referee, which has previously been the case, but to an independent panel which will be asked if the incident warrants a red card.

If they agree, Torres will be given a three-match ban on top of his one-match suspension.

This would rule him out of league matches against Norwich City, Cardiff City, Manchester City and the League Cup tie with Arsenal.

This could be more of a loss than would have been imagined a week ago as there was no doubting the renewed sharpness in Torres' play on Saturday, as he showed a return to the sort of menace that prompted Chelsea to pay Liverpool £50m for his services.

His return to form was mirrored by a Chelsea side that came back strongly in the second half after being thoroughly outplayed by a Tottenham side who showed they no longer miss Gareth Bale, one of several lessons hammered home here.

Both sides are genuine title contenders, with Spurs showing their credentials as challengers in a terrific first-half display of pace and power, while Chelsea displayed the spirit and stamina of former champions to come back strongly after the break.

Both managers demonstrated the tactical nous to suggest the gap between sorcerer and apprentice has narrowed considerably, with Andre Villas-Boas outwitting his former mentor Jose Mourinho for 45 minutes, before the self-proclaimed Special One showed he still has the ability to make game-changing adjust-ments at half-time.

Juan Mata must be hoping that Mourinho has learned not to take the little Spaniard too lightly, after turning the game in Chelsea's favour once he replaced the hapless John Obi Mikel at half-time.

MYSTIFIED

Mata and his many fans inside and outside Stamford Bridge have been mystified by Mourinho's reluctance to give a starting spot to the man who was Chelsea's player of the year twice in succession.

Yet it was only after he was given playmaking responsibilities, and Ramires was moved into the middle from the right wing, that Chelsea were able to negate Spurs' strong and skilful midfield and turn the tide in their own favour.

Andros Townsend, so lively in the first half, has learned he must not throw himself over opponents' legs if he is to avoid taking on Bale's reputation as a diver and to his credit the young England winger was quick to apologise for the offence that brought him a deserved yellow card.

Chelsea's midfield had no answer to the trickery of Townsend, power of Paulinho or craft of Eriksen and Spurs supporters taunted Mourinho with chants of "You're not special any more".

That they only had Gylffi Sigurdsson's goal to show for their dominance was down to decisive defending from Branislav Ivanovic and Paulinho finding the post rather than net on the stroke of half time.

But Mata made the difference, starting to run the game from a central position and floating in the free-kick from which John Terry equalised. (© Daily Telegraph, London)

Irish Independent

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