Brighton boss Roberto De Zerbi accused Tottenham’s acting head coach Christian Stellini of disrespecting him after Saturday’s fiery encounter saw the pair in a frosty pitchside confrontation.
Both coaches were shown red cards during Spurs’ fiery 2-1 win over the Seagulls in north London on Saturday after personnel from the two benches clashed on the touchline around the hour mark.
Tension was bubbling between De Zerbi and Stellini before kick-off as the Brighton boss appeared to angrily confront the Tottenham interim manager at the pre-match handshake.
De Zerbi is thought to have taken offence to comments made by Stellini in midweek in which he said the 43-year-old had simply carried on the good work of his predecessor Graham Potter.
What did Stellini say to antagonise De Zerbi?
Tottenham’s acting head coach Cristian Stellini speaking in the build-up to this game:
“They came from a good [manager] with Graham Potter for a long time.
“I think Roberto De Zerbi has found a good solution to play with this style because with Potter the players know themselves very well.
“This is a great opportunity because when players play for a long time with each other it is easier.”
“I’m used to always respecting everyone inside and outside of the pitch,” said De Zerbi, who could now be suspended for Brighton’s FA Cup semi-final against Manchester United.
“I don’t like it when people don’t respect me. But there are normal situations in football. It’s personal things. I always respect everyone, especially the coaches. I can answer for me, not for him.”
Asked if he felt disrespected by his fellow Italian, De Zerbi said: “Yes. It’s a personal situation. I told him what was my opinion, my idea, not bad words, only my opinion.”
Stellini was less forthcoming when asked about the disagreement with his compatriot.
“Sometimes when we speak, Italian people seem aggressive,” he told Sky Sports. “We were not aggressive. I don’t want to speak about other managers.
“This is only the second game I’m a head coach. I want to respect every manager. What happened on the pitch, stays on the pitch.”
But he was baffled about the reasoning for his sending off, insisting he “didn’t say anything”.
“I tried to keep calm,” he added. “I am the head coach and have to respect the decision. Our team used the situation to create energy, that’s because it helped us.”
Stellini: We were lucky with VAR
Brighton were denied three times by the Video Assistant Referee as they suffered a blow in their push for Champions League football, with the defeat leaving them 10 points adrift of fourth with a game in hand.
Spurs, meanwhile, closed the gap on Manchester United in fourth to three points, having played a game more than their rivals, and Stellini believes his side were overdue some fortune with regard to VAR.
The VAR calls which went against Brighton
17 mins: With Spurs leading 1-0, Kaoru Mitoma’s goal is ruled out for handball but replays show it may have hit his chest.
55 mins: VAR rules out Alexis Mac Allister’s goal for handball after he deflects in Danny Welbeck’s shot
72 mins: : Mitoma goes down under Hojbjerg’s challenge but VAR says no penalty, along with referee Stuart Attwell.
“It is the first time this season we are lucky with the VAR,” he said. “We have to enjoy this moment because we were many times not lucky with VAR. One time it happened for us.
“We respected many times VAR decisions. Today, everyone has to respect it.
“We conceded their aggression. We were not so aggressive. We were quiet, focused on the game only. I don’t want to speak about this. I want to speak about the game. The way we finished, fought and didn’t concede the goal.”
Dunk: I don’t see the point of VAR in football
Brighton captain Lewis Dunk was left flabbergasted by the performance of VAR at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium and questioned the technology’s relevance in football.
“I thought we were the better team, dominated the game,” he told Sky Sports. “Created two chances and scored two goals which was poor from us, but I don’t understand football sometimes.
“I don’t know. I felt I tried to make a run and got pulled, I don’t know about that one. Haven’t seen it but I felt I was stopped making a run.
“Apparently one of them hit Alexis Mac Allister on the hand. The other one, VAR made a tight decision, it looks like it’s above the arm. They make a decision on that but can’t make a decision on a blatant foul on Kaoru Mitoma? I don’t understand VAR.
“The amount on this game for us and them was humongous. A blatant penalty at 1-1 they don’t give. We don’t feel sorry for ourselves. We have many more games to go. I don’t see the point of VAR in football.”