Tottenham boss Ange Postecoglou played down his heated touchline exchange with Bournemouth’s backroom staff towards the end of an entertaining 3-1 home win.
Pape Sarr, Son Heung-min and Richarlison were on target to fire fifth-placed Spurs to a fourth victory in five matches, which puts them three points behind Premier League leaders Liverpool going into 2024.
The back and forth contest threatened to spill over towards its conclusion when young Tottenham substitute Alejo Veliz suffered a suspected knee injury and while he attempted to play on, he was repeatedly told by Postecoglou and his staff to stay down to receive treatment.
It led to Postecoglou exchanging words with Bournemouth first-team coach Shaun Cooper in stoppage time before a melee ensued on the touchline, which resulted in referee Stuart Hooper booking the duo and Spurs midfielder Giovani Lo Celso.
But Postecoglou joked: “We were just wishing each other happy new year.
“It’s alright. Just a little bit of emotion in the game. I was more concerned with Alejo because we were kind of trying to get him off the field and, apart from my physically going on the pitch and dragging him off, he wasn’t really going to go down.
“So, we were just shouting at him and I think the Bournemouth staff thought, I don’t know what they thought, maybe that we were trying to make a substitution but we knew we had none. It was just about getting him off.”
Opposite number Andoni Iraola was also happy to brush off the incident, although suggested it was clever game management.
“No, it is normal. I think it is what all the teams do. When you are winning the game, you want to play as less as possible, you want to stop,” Cherries head coach Iraola said.
“They had Veliz injured and it is normal. We were putting a lot of pressure, even if it was 3-1 and it was a dangerous game for them.
“It is something that when you are winning, we all do. We try to play as less as possible and we have to accept it.
“He (Veliz) is injured but he has to go to the bench and sit. We cannot wait because he is injured.
“It was obvious he was injured, for sure. I know otherwise he would continue playing and running, no? But he could just walk to the bench but it is normal.
“He tried to play because it was good for them try to continue playing, stop a little bit, continue, stop because we were pushing a lot and sometimes you have to manage the game like this. It is normal and we have to accept it.”
While Postecoglou was able to toast a victorious end to 2023, Spurs’ injury crisis reared its ugly head again with a tearful Sarr forced off with a hamstring injury and Veliz also emotional upon leaving the pitch.
Rodrigo Bentancur did make a surprise return a month ahead of schedule from an ankle injury, which is a timely boost with Sarr and Yves Bissouma set for Africa Cup of Nations duty next month and Son also in Asian Cup action.
“Pape felt his hamstring and he’s emotional because he wants to go away with his national team,” Postecoglou said.
“Disappointing for him but I am hoping it is 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. Apart from the win, that was probably the most pleasing thing that he got through 60 minutes and he can help us from here on.”