Tottenham boss Postecoglou laments VAR as Romero and Udogie sent off in Chelsea defeat

A 4-1 win for the Blues over their London rivals told only half the story of a match that featured five disallowed goals, two red cards, a penalty and two Spurs players forced off during the first half with injury

Tottenham Hotspur's Cristian Romero, centre, is shown a red card by referee Michael Oliver. Reuters
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Tottenham Hotspur manager Ange Postecoglou said VAR is "diminishing the authority" of referees after seeing his team lose in the Premier League for the first time this season against Chelsea.

A 4-1 win for the Blues over their London rivals told only half the story of a match that featured five disallowed goals, two red cards, a penalty and two Spurs players forced off during the first half with injury.

But the match was dominated by VAR’s involvement with the red cards being two of nine decisions referred to the video referee.

Even with nine men, the hosts continued to take the game to Chelsea and were well in the contest before Nicolas Jackson twice sprung their high line in stoppage time to add his team’s third and fourth goals and complete an unlikely hat-trick.

Postecoglou’s team had dominated the early exchanges and led through a Dejan Kulusevski goal on six minutes. They maintained that control until defender Cristian Romero was shown a red card for a dangerous tackle on his fellow Argentine Enzo Fernandez on 33 minutes.

Moises Caicedo's blast from the edge of the area beat Guglielmo Vicario, but VAR ruled Jackson was offside and it still came to Chelsea's aid.

As the VAR check went on, Romero's challenge on Fernandez just before Caicedo's shot was adjudged to be a penalty, with the defender dismissed for his studs-up follow-through on the Chelsea midfielder's shin.

Cole Palmer's spot-kick was almost saved by Vicario but it had enough power to elude his grasp as it went in via the post.

There was more hold-up in play as Chelsea's Raheem Sterling and Tottenham's Son Heung-min both had goals disallowed by VAR for handball and offside respectively.

Spurs were reduced to nine men 10 minutes into the second half when left-back Destiny Udogie received a second yellow card for a foul on Sterling.

Despite their numerical advantage, it took Chelsea until the 75th minute to take the lead with Jackson grabbing his first of the night.

Spurs’ night was compounded by the loss of James Maddison and Micky van de Ven to injury on top of what is likely to be a three-game ban for Romero.

But it was VAR’s impact that dominated Postecoglou’s thoughts after the game after Spurs also had an Eric Dier goal ruled out by VAR for offside and a total of 21 minutes were added on at the end of each half.

Lengthy VAR pauses "are going to become the norm," said the Spurs boss. "I think it’s where the game is heading. Unfortunately, it’s how we’re going to have to watch and participate in football from now on.

“I don’t like it. I don’t like the standing around, the whole theatre around waiting for decisions. But I know I’m in the wilderness on that.

“In my 26 years, I was always prepared to accept the referee’s decision, good, bad or otherwise, and I’ve had some shockers in my career. I’ve had some go my way as well.

“I’ll cop that because I just want the game to be played. But when we’re complaining about decisions every week, this is what’s going to happen.

“People are going to forensically scrutinise everything to make sure they’re comfortable it’s right, and even at the end of that, we’re still not happy.

“It’s just diminishing the authority of the referee. You can’t tell me referees are in control of games. They’re not. Control is outside of that, but that’s where the game’s going. You have to accept it and try and deal with it.”

Chelsea boss Mauricio Pochettino was able to savour a sweet victory over Tottenham on his first return to the club since his sacking in 2019.

Though the Argentine's revenge mission was overshadowed by an incredible litany of controversial incidents, he reflected on a game in which, despite a host of contentious decisions, he felt his team were deserved victors.

“I think we deserved to win,” he said. “We forced them to make too many mistakes. Tottenham were better in the first 15 minutes but then we matched the game. Our performance was good.

“Everything you can see during the game I think was fair. We compare to the Tottenham-Liverpool game, a similar game like today. Liverpool complained. But today, everything that happened was fair. That’s why I think 4-1, the performance was good.”

Pochettino was given a largely warm reception by Tottenham fans in recognition of a five-year reign that included taking them to their maiden Champions League final.

But there could be no doubting his pleasure at inflicting a first league defeat on his former employers this term, especially given the extraordinary circumstances of one of the Premier League's most incendiary matches.

"The technology is there and we need to accept. Many things happen on the pitch and you need to verify and check," Pochettino said.

"We deserve the credit. Tottenham are doing fantastic but tonight we were the better team."

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Updated: November 07, 2023, 5:47 AM