Kane snatches draw for Spurs at Chelsea as clashing Conte and Tuchel see red

For connoisseurs of football managers’ handshakes, this was the reward for those hours of dedication. For everyone else it was the inevitable conclusion to an afternoon that had hit boiling point during a second half of twists, turns and raw vitriol.

Spurs had just rescued an undeserved draw through Harry Kane’s deflected header and there was scant chance, given what had passed, that Thomas Tuchel and Antonio Conte would part ways with smiles and invitations for a post-match beer. But the sight of the pair clashing for a second time after the final whistle, eyes bulging and throats bawling, was astonishing by any measure and will keep the FA’s disciplinarians fully occupied in the early part of this week.

Both were shown the red card; both will point fingers and there was plenty of that after Tuchel kept hold of Conte’s hand and sparked a furious response from his counterpart. Tuchel felt Conte had shown disrespect by not looking him in the eye as they shook: in reality it seemed both parties were spoiling for a renewal of hostilities after tempers had initially flared up on a controversial first equaliser by Pierre-Emile Højbjerg.

It made for a follow-up, six years on, to the infamous Battle of the Bridge and there was more to digest during the final half-hour than most matches produce in their entirety. Chelsea had merited their lead, given by Kalidou Koulibaly’s wonderfully executed volley in the 19th minute; they had been faster, stronger, cleverer and more creative than Spurs, while this was one of those days when several clones of N’Golo Kanté seem to have invaded the pitch. But there was a snowball’s chance in hell of Conte, on his old turf, taking that lying down, and his team finally awoke with ferocious consequences.

Tuchel was less happy to credit Tottenham with that level of agency and he had a point. He felt neither of their goals should have stood and there was certainly widespread bemusement when, half a minute before Højbjerg scored, Anthony Taylor elected not to penalise Rodrigo Bentancur’s challenge on a marauding Kai Havertz.

It looked a clear foul; Chelsea still had ample opportunity to clear the resulting attack, which was finished by a low 20-yard shot that snicked off Koulibaly, but their manager was in little mood to see things that way given there was also cause to complain that an offside Richarlison had obscured Édouard Mendy’s line of sight.

Instead he took exception to Conte’s characteristically vein-throbbing celebration, which appeared to have been aimed in his direction, barging into the Italian and setting in train a short-lived screaming match. Backroom staff and substitutes piled in, some keener to keep the peace than others, and both men had to be led away before a drinks break temporarily cooled things.

Proceedings on the pitch crackled thrillingly from there. Havertz somehow failed to convert a Reece James cross but that did not appear to matter, from a Chelsea perspective, when they regained the lead with a goal that epitomised their showing. Dejan Kulusevski was pressed into conceding possession and, via Kanté and the impressive Raheem Sterling, the ball was spirited to an open James. A confident finish raised the roof and, again, the temperature: Tuchel set off on a sprint that ended near the corner flag, this time passing Conte without a glance. Had Chelsea held on, it may have been the image that marked the beginning of Todd Boehly’s new era.

Boehly had been greeted before the game, more than a little cloyingly, by a giant banner bearing his likeness that was passed along the Matthew Harding stand. Opposite, the Shed End displayed a tapestry reading “Welcome to the house of fun, Todd and Co”. By the end that descriptor undersold what this venue had staged. Chelsea looked certain to celebrate the win when Mendy tipped Ben Davies’s header over from a corner in the fourth minute of added time and thought they might even finish a player to the good when VAR pored over the set piece, showing clearly enough that Cristian Romero had hauled Marc Cucurella down by the hair as it was sent in.

No punishment was forthcoming and, when Ivan Perisic delivered from the right, Kane flicked in a header with slight assistance from a combination of James and Koulibaly. He had missed a one-on-one at 1-0 and otherwise been smothered but it is always dangerous to presume an off day on his part. Tuchel’s argument was that Perisic’s corner should never have been taken; it was difficult not to sympathise.

It was less easy to feel generous towards either manager by the time they had finished, but perhaps anyone expecting this occasion to pass quietly was simply naive. Neither man had let the weather conditions bother him, roaming the technical areas indefatigably from the start, with one Tuchel rant at Havertz confirming that he was suitably keyed up.

When he reviews the football itself, Tuchel will feel his side did little to get angry about: the unattended Koulibaly’s cracking finish from a deep Cucurella corner came straight after a near miss from Havertz and Chelsea retained their grip for most of the game. On another day, although probably one overseen by different coaches, it would even have been worth poring over a highly effective outing at right wing-back from Ruben Loftus-Cheek. But this league increasingly demands box-office fare from its managers and here, tastefully or not, they obliged. Even if the handshake made heads shake, this was as compelling as it gets.