Liverpool's Luis Suarez sunk his teeth into Chelsea's top-four hopes with a last-gasp equaliser on Sunday but it was his bite on an opponent that overshadowed a day when Tottenham Hotspur virtually ended Manchester City's Premier League title defence. By Martyn Herman.
Suarez clearly clamped his jaw around the arm of Chelsea defender Branislav Ivanovic during the second half of an action-packed Premier League clash but escaped unpunished.
The controversial Uruguayan’s powerful header six minutes into stoppage time then earned his side a 2-2 draw.
It was a bitter blow for Chelsea, especially as Tottenham had earlier closed the gap in the chase for Champions League qualification with a stunning late comeback to beat City 3-1.
Leading 1-0 through Samir Nasri’s early goal with 15 minutes left, City seemed set to prolong the title race for another week at least but three goals in seven minutes late on from Clint Dempsey, Jermain Defoe and Gareth Bale left them 13 points behind leaders Manchester United.
Tottenham’s smash and grab raid meant United can seal a record 20th English title if they beat relegation-threatened Aston Villa at Old Trafford on Monday.
While the title race is virtually done and dusted, Tottenham’s win and Chelsea’s draw at Liverpool intensified the top-four battle.
Arsenal remained in third spot with 63 points from 34 games, Chelsea have 62 from 33 and Tottenham 61 from 33.
While Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers said he would need time to view the Suarez incident again and his counterpart, former Anfield boss Rafa Benitez, said he had not seen the bite, the controversial Suarez will again make the headlines for all the wrong reasons.
Graeme Souness, Liverpool’s former hardman midfielder now working as a Sky TV pundit, described the bite as “embarrassing” and said the reputation of the club was being damaged.
“It could make it very difficult for him to stay at Liverpool,” Souness said. “They have to safeguard the good name of the club.
“Suarez’s track record is not great, this puts him in the last-chance saloon because it’s putting at risk eveything that this clubs stands for.”
Suarez, banned last season for racially abusing Manchester United’s Patrice Evra, was never far from the action on Sunday, creating Liverpool’s equaliser for Daniel Sturridge with a superb cross and conceding a penalty to allow Eden Hazard to put Chelsea 2-1 ahead.
He then headed in Sturridges’s cross to deny Chelsea who had gone in front before halftime through Oscar.
“It is one point, but when you are winning in the last second, it is incredible to play six minute and 45 seconds of injury time. You do not see that,” said Benitez who was given a rousing reception by the Liverpool fans.
“I have not seen the (biting) incident, the players told me about it. We are not talking about that, we are so disappointed about the late goal.”
Earlier at White Hart Lane, Manchester City manager Roberto Mancini was left mystified as to how his side had lost to Tottenham despite looking comfortable for 75 minutes.
Shrugging off the title race as “being over three weeks ago” he told reporters: “For 80 minutes we didn’t concede a chance and we had two or three chances to score, it was all under control. We lost because of two big mistakes.”
Even his Tottenham counterpart Andre Villas-Boas admitted that defeat had looked the likely outcome.
“In the second half we found our rhythm,” he said. “When we managed to score the first goal it was the key. We gained the momentum and the confidence and the emotions in the stadium changed and helped the team.”
Tottenham began brightly in the spring sunshine, with Bale, back after an ankle injury, in the thick of the action but the home crowd were silenced when City took the lead with their first foray forward.
Carlos Tevez did well down the right to hold the ball up and he slipped a clever pass for James Milner whose low cross was clipped past Hugo Lloris by former Arsenal player Nasri.
Tottenham were flat although Kyle Walker, who was lucky to escape serious injury from a rash tackle by Nasri that went unpunished, wasted a chance from a narrow angle.
Nasri was inches away from making it 2-0 to City, who were dangerous on the break and Lloris also saved his side when he plunged to keep out a Tevez header.
Tottenham enjoyed more of the ball after the break but with former City striker Emmanuel Adebayor almost anonymous in attack, a comeback looked most unlikely until manager Villas-Boas made some substitutions.
With time running out, however, a moment of hesitation by Vincent Kompany allowed Dempsey to slide in and convert Bale’s low cross into the area.
Energised, Tottenham were ahead four minutes later when Lewis Holtby played a diagonal pass to fellow substitute Defoe and the England striker cut in to fire a right-foot shot past the dive of Joe Hart.
Three minutes later Tom Huddlestone, another substitute, played in Bale, who produced a crafty chip to complete a remarkable victory and leave City crestfallen. DM
Photo: Chelsea’s Branislav Ivanovic (R) challenges Liverpool’s Luis Suarez during their English Premier League soccer match at Anfield in Liverpool, northern England, April 21, 2013. REUTERS/Phil Noble
"A long habit of not thinking a thing wrong gives it a superficial appearance of being right and raises at first a formidable outcry in defence of custom. But the tumult soon subsides. Time makes more converts than reason." ~ Thomas Paine