Tottenham coach Ange Postecoglou played down his heated exchange with Bournemouth’s backroom team towards the end of an entertaining 3-1 home win.
Pape Sarr, Son Heung-min and Richarlison were on the right track to give fifth-placed Spurs their fourth win in five games, leaving them three points behind Premier League leaders Liverpool until 2024.
The back-and-forth contest threatened to come to an end when young Tottenham substitute Alejo Veliz suffered a suspected knee injury and, while trying to continue playing, was repeatedly told by Postecoglou and his staff to stay down for treatment allow.
This led to Postecoglou speaking to Bournemouth first team coach Shaun Cooper in stoppage time before a scuffle broke out on the touchline which resulted in referee Stuart Hooper calling the duo and Spurs midfielder Giovani Lo Celso discarded.
But Postecoglou joked: “We just wished each other a happy new year.
“It’s fine. Just a little bit of emotion in the game. I was more worried about Alejo because we were kind of trying to get him off the field and aside from being physically on the field and pulling him away, he wouldn’t really go down.
“So we just shouted at him and I think the Bournemouth staff thought, I don’t know what they were thinking, maybe we were trying to bring in a replacement but we knew we didn’t have one. It was just a matter of getting rid of him.”
Opponent Andoni Iraola was also happy to cover up the incident, but suggested it was a case of clever game management.
“No, that’s normal. I think that’s what all teams do. When you win the game you want to play as little as possible and stop,” said Cherries head coach Iraola.
“They had hurt Veliz and that’s normal. We put a lot of pressure on, even though the score was 3-1 and it was a dangerous game for them.
“It’s something we all do when you win. We try to play as little as possible and we have to accept that.
“He (Veliz) is injured but he has to go to the bench and sit. We can’t wait because he’s injured.
“It was very clear that he was injured. I know, otherwise he would keep playing and running, right? But he could just go to the bank, but that’s normal.
“He tried to play because it was good for them. It’s normal and we have to accept it.”
While Postecoglou was able to toast to a victorious end to 2023, Spurs’ injury crisis came to a head again when Sarr was left in tears with a hamstring injury and Veliz was also emotional as he left the pitch.
Rodrigo Bentancur made a surprise return from an ankle injury a month earlier than planned, a timely boost with Sarr and Yves Bissouma set to line up for the Africa Cup of Nations next month and Son also set to feature in the Asian Cup.
“Pape has felt his Achilles tendon and is emotional because he wants to leave with his national team,” Postecoglou said.
“It’s disappointing for him but I hope it’s not too serious and he can still go away and contribute to his country.
“Alejo was in a lot of pain.”
On Bentancur, Postecoglou said: “I thought he was great today. Aside from the win, that was probably the most pleasing thing he achieved in the 60 minutes and he can help us from now on.”