x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 26 July 2017

Tottenham Hotspur 1 Swansea City 0

English Premier League match nearly ends in violence after Welsh club player Michu is downed by Londoners' goalkeeper Hugo Lloris.

Michu, the Swansea City forward, lies motionless on the pitch after a collision with Tottenham goalkeeper Hugo Lloris, right. Jonathan Brady / PA
Michu, the Swansea City forward, lies motionless on the pitch after a collision with Tottenham goalkeeper Hugo Lloris, right. Jonathan Brady / PA

LONDON // With the Premier League game deep into injury time, Andre Villas-Boas, the substitute Steven Caulker and at least one member of Tottenham Hotspur's backroom staff raced onto the pitch. A few yards away, in the Swansea City technical area, Michael Laudrup was clearly and unusually furious.

For a few seconds it appeared a mass brawl might be about to break out with Chico Flores at its heart, which after a game of neat, aesthetically pleasing football played in the politest of spirits, would have been wholly unexpected.

But then everybody realised they were angry about the same thing and calmed down. In punching a bouncing ball clear, the Spurs goalkeeper Hugo Lloris had inadvertently followed through and caught Michu, Swansea's Spanish forward, in the face.

The player was flattened, left sprawled cruciform on the White Hart Lane pitch, clearly in some distress. Mike Dean, the referee, seemed to run towards the incident as though to stop the game but then, seeing that Andros Townsend, the Tottenham substitute, was clean through on the Swansea goal, allowed play to continue.

Gerhard Tremmel, the Swans custodian, fortunately, denied him and so prevented an even bigger furore than the one that did break out.

Laudrup was still seething in the news conference, letting slip an uncharacteristic expletive and comparing the incident to Patrick Battiston being knocked unconscious by Toni Schumacher in France's defeat to West Germany in the 1982 World Cup semi-final.

"I was very angry," said the Dane. "We always talk about when a player is down from the opponent, should we kick the ball out and it's the same debate in every country.

"We have a referee and we have two linesman so we just go on until the referee whistles. But, when things happen, possible head injuries, like this one … the referee is watching them, linesman is watching them, and still they let the game go on. I think it was a poor decision, and very dangerous as well.

"I would like to hear the explanation. And I repeat, I don't want a red card, penalty or free kick, I just want the game stopped in that moment and had it been the opponent I would have said exactly the same [to my players]. And, just because it was a head injury. If somebody gets a hamstring injury and goes down, we just continue until the ball goes out and carry him out because it's not dangerous."

Villas-Boas, the Tottenham manager, was in full agreement.

"It is the referee that has to stop the game," he said. "It was difficult because Andros Townsend is moving one direction and Mike was going into Michu's direction but still directing the play so it was a difficult decision for him. I think he had an extremely good game. In that split second, he has to make a decision, the Swansea players were angry about the situation but Townsend kept on running but, to be fair, we jumped straight away from the bench to try and stop them."

In that, Villas-Boas is surely right.When it first became standard practise for players to put the ball out if an opponent was injured, it seemed a gentlemanly act. Over time, though, it has become corrupted and too often players go down to break up the game or stop a counter attack.

Laudrup was adamant that he thought Lloris's punch was not a foul.

The incident rounded off an otherwise largely uneventful afternoon in which both sides had played neat football without the game ever quite catching fire.

Spurs had the bulk of possession and by far the majority of the chances, but they did not find the back of the net until 16 minutes from time when Jan Vertonghen hooked in a right-footed volley after Ben Davies had inadvertently glanced on a Kyle Walker free-kick.

"It's important to break out from this pack and join the top sides," said Villas-Boas, "but it's not going to be easy."

 

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