Fernando Torres could be the first player in the dock under a new Football Association disciplinary system being trialled this season.
The Chelsea striker faces the prospect of his one-match ban for being dismissed at White Hart Lane being extended to four if he is found guilty of violent conduct for gouging the face of Tottenham's Jan Vertonghen. Torres was dismissed in the 82nd minute of an enthralling match on Saturday for his second yellow card, after an aerial clash with Vertonghen.
The pair had been going hammer-and-tongs all afternoon, and the Spaniard received his initial caution in the 50th minute after tripping -Vertonghen, then digging his fingernails into the face and neck of the Belgian defender. The caution appeared to be just for the trip. If this is confirmed in the match report of referee Mike Dean on Monday the FA will ask the official if he saw the gouging incident. If he says he did not a copy will be sent not to the referee, which has previously been the case, but to an independent panel which will be asked if the incident warrants a red card. If they agree Torres will be given a three-match ban on top of his one-match suspension.
This would rule Torres out of league matches against Norwich City, Cardiff City, Manchester City and the Capital One Cup tie with Arsenal. This could be more of a loss than would have been imagined a week ago as there was no doubting the renewed sharpness in Torres's play on Saturday, as he showed a return to the sort of menace that prompted Chelsea to pay Liverpool pounds 50??million for his services.
His return to form was mirrored by a Chelsea side that came back strongly in the second half after being thoroughly outplayed by a Tottenham side who showed they no longer miss Gareth Bale, one of several lessons hammered home here. Both sides are genuine title contenders, with Spurs showing their credentials as challengers in a terrific first-half display of pace and power, while Chelsea displayed the spirit and stamina of former champions to come back strongly after the break.
Both managers demonstrated the tactical nous to suggest the gap between sorcerer and apprentice has narrowed considerably, with Andre Villas-Boas outwitting his former mentor Jose Mourinho for 45 minutes, before the self-proclaimed -Special One showed he still has the ability to make game-changing adjust-ments at half-time.
Juan Mata must be hoping that Mourinho has learned not to take the little Spaniard too lightly, after -turning the game in Chelsea's favour once he replaced the hapless John Obi Mikel at half-time. Mata and his many fans inside and outside Stamford Bridge have been mystified by Mourinho's reluctance to give a starting spot to the man who was Chelsea's player of the year twice in succession.
Yet it was only after he was given playmaking responsibilities, and Ramires was moved into the middle from the right wing, that Chelsea were able to negate Spurs' strong and skilful midfield and turn the tide in their own favour. Andros Townsend, so lively in the first half, has learned he must not throw himself over opponents' legs if he is to avoid taking on Bale's reputation as a diver, and to his credit the young England winger was quick to apologise for the offence that brought him a deserved yellow card. Chelsea's midfield had no answer to the trickery of Townsend, power of Paulinho or craft of Eriksen, and Spurs supporters taunted Mourinho with chants of "You're not special any more".
That they only had Gylffi -Sigurdsson's goal to show for their dominance was down to decisive defending from Branislav Ivanovic and Paulinho finding the post rather than net on the stroke of half time. But Mata made the difference, starting to run the game from a central position and floating in the free-kick from which John Terry equalised.
Chelsea looked likelier to score until Torres saw red, and Frank -Lampard summed up their mood when he said: "In the end we were disappointed to get just a point. If we'd kept 11 men on the pitch we felt we would have won the game." Like his manager, he felt Torres was hard done by.
"I didn't see it clearly but apparently it wasn't a sending off. He looks very sharp and competitive which is what you want. He caused Tottenham lots of problems with his pace and direct play. He was unlucky not to get a goal and to be sent off." Lampard was full of praise for Mata, too: "He played well, linked the play, put in the ball for the goal. He has been a vital player ever since he came to the club. His attitude has been first class. Every player understands there is a lot of competition, especially in midfield. If you are not playing, and we have all been there, you have to stay and train well, keep the right attitude. Juan has done that."
Mata matched Eriksen's first-half magic for Tottenham, and the draw was fair, even if as Lampard said: "It was a great result for [leaders] Arsenal. It's always a cracking atmosphere at White Hart Lane and this was two teams at the top of the table, neither wanting to lose, so it was fast and full-blooded, everything you want to see in a game." Lampard was not pleased when Townsend dived over him shortly before half-time. "I don't mind honest tackles - that is what fans like to see in these games - but they don't like to see people throw themselves around too easily."
But he added: "I don't want to criticise too much. He's a great talent and will be for Tottenham and for England. Maybe he was was waiting for contact and it did not come. You know what, you get a yellow card and move on. We don't need to make a diving campaign out of it." Townsend was contrite.
"As I cut inside [Lampard] his leg was out and at the last minute he pulled out and I went over it. There was no contact and I thoroughly deserved the yellow card. I said to the ref at half-time: 'I was fully in the wrong and you were right to book me.' "It was unfortunate we didn't take our chances when we were on top. We knew Chelsea could not be bad for 90 minutes and in the end we were made to pay. But we'll learn from this and we'll come back stronger."