Chelsea’s Fernando Torres may face four-match ban
Altercations with Jan Vertonghen could result in on-form striker being sidelined
Fernando Torres of Chelsea is challenged by Jan Vertonghen of Tottenham Hotspur during the Premier League game at White Hart Lane. Photograph: Clive Rose/Getty Images
Fernando Torres is braced to receive a further misconduct charge for scratching Tottenham Hotspur’s Jan Vertonghen in the face on Saturday. The English Football Association is to make a decision once it has received the referee Mike Dean’s assessment of the flashpoint between the players.
The Chelsea forward was booked after clashing with Vertonghen near the touchline six minutes into the second half, though it was unclear whether Dean had penalised the striker for a trip that had left the Belgian grounded, or for raising his hands when the pair squared up.
Neither the referee nor his assistant was positioned to witness Torres clawing the side of his marker’s face and, if Dean confirms in his report today that he did not see that offence, there is the potential for the FA, under a pilot scheme being trialled this season, to ask their three-man panel of former referees to consider retrospective punishment.
Torres was subsequently, and harshly, shown a second yellow card after jumping in aerial challenge with Vertonghen, a decision which enraged the Chelsea manager, Jose Mourinho, who denounced the Spurs player as “a disgrace” for “pretending he was hurt and staying on the floor”.
Torres will serve a one-match suspension for the dismissal. There is no scope for an appeal in cases of two cautions but, if found guilty of violent conduct over the scratch, he would incur a further three-match ban and be ruled out of all Chelsea’s domestic fixtures in October.
That would represent a huge blow to club and player, particularly with the 27-year-old having mustered arguably his most impressive form in a Chelsea shirt since joining from Liverpool in January 2011 to spearhead a second-half revival at White Hart Lane.
Torres, perhaps riled by his running feud with Vertonghen, was a man possessed only to end up seeing red. That was his third dismissal while with the club but he will benefit from his manager’s support in the weeks ahead, with Mourinho impressed by the player’s input.
“He’s very strong and, physically, he’s living a very good moment,” Mourinho said. “I watched Fernando’s matches for Chelsea in other seasons on the television and he looked to me a bit heavy, a little slow. Now he looks in fantastic shape. He knows I’m happy with his performances.”
Tottenham’s first-half dominance was evidence that they can thrive at the top of the division, their approach an impressive blend of physical power and instinctive skill and trickery. Andros Townsend and Christian Eriksen were live wires, the Dane’s involvement in Gylfi Sigurdsson’s goal typical of an irrepressible first-half performance.
Yet, for all that Spurs’ blend was reminiscent of Mourinho’s original Chelsea line-up, the visitors’ class of 2013 summoned bite, urgency and, as a result, dominance after the interval. Ramires was more influential in central midfield while Juan Mata, who will start in Bucharest tomorrow, sliced passes through Tottenham’s backline. Torres was explosive at the team’s tip and so ascendant were his side that Mourinho, sensing Spurs were “in trouble”, was about to fling on Samuel Eto’o to work alongside the Spaniard when Dean flashed red and bold aspirations were instantly choked.
They still resisted and will point to their own show of strength, typified by John Terry’s leap to convert Mata’s free-kick to equalise, as encouragement.