Tottenham Hotspur lost their cool and their Premier League title hopes as they let slip a two-goal lead at Chelsea to draw a stormy London derby 2-2 on Monday.
Comfortably ahead at half time with goals from Harry Kane and Son Heung-min, Spurs were on course for a first win at Stamford Bridge in 26 years that would have kept the title race alive, but Chelsea hit back after the break with Gary Cahill and substitute Eden Hazard on target.
Tottenham ended up with nine players in referee Mark Clattenburg’s book and were lucky to have 11 men on the field at the end after a series of ugly exchanges.
With their hopes of catching newly-crowned champions Leicester City in tatters, a melee broke out in the tunnel after the final whistle with coaching staff and players from both sides involved in heated scenes that could bring FA punishments.
Tottenham are the first team in Premier League history to have nine players booked in one game.
“We were all involved today,” Spurs boss Mauricio Pochettino, who had to separate his left back Danny Rose and Chelsea’s Willian in the first half, said.
“When you play for the title and play a very big team like Chelsea it is normal to show emotion, but fighting on the pitch is not a good example for both teams.
“The tension, that Chelsea want to stop Tottenham, shows the respect they have for us. It is a pleasure to play in this intensity. When an opponent plays like this it makes me feel proud. This is football.”
Tottenham midfielder Mousa Dembele appeared to poke Chelsea striker Diego Costa in the eye while midfielder Eric Dier was also lucky to avoid a red card for a wild tackle on Hazard.
Chelsea boss Guus Hiddink was pushed over in the fracas after the final whistle.
Chelsea skipper John Terry, who had returned to action after injury, said emotions were running high.
“Players are fighting for league titles, it’s emotions,” Terry, who led Chelsea to the title a year ago said.
“It boiled over let’s not get silly and start banning people, it’s a London derby and the fans want to see it.”
Tottenham are guaranteed a top-four finish and Champions League qualifying spot but will want to finish the season runners-up. With two games left, they are three points above north-London rivals Arsenal and six ahead of Manchester City.
“Next season, we need to be stronger than this one and try to be in the race for the title again,” Pochettino said.
“We are disappointed but (I’m) proud of my players. The season was fantastic and we will still fight for second place. We have a three points gap to Arsenal, we need to keep the gap and we need to be ready for next week.”
Tottenham finish with a home game against Southampton and an away trip to relegation-threatened Newcastle United.