Frank Lampard called for strong action to be taken after Antonio Rudiger suffered alleged racist abuse in Chelsea’s 2-0 win at Tottenham, but Jose Mourinho risked adding to the defender’s problems by mocking his role in Son Heung-min’s dismissal. Rudiger appeared to be subjected to monkey chants from Tottenham fans after he was involved in a second-half clash with Son that triggered the South Korean’s controversial red card.
Son kicked out at Rudiger after they collided and the German centre-back went to the turf clutching his stomach. The incident was followed by the alleged racist barracking, which Rudiger reported to referee Anthony Taylor via Chelsea captain Cesar Azpilicueta.
Taylor spoke to both managers, while the public address tannoy made three announcements warning that “racist behaviour among spectators is interfering with the game”.
It is the latest incident of racism to scar European football this season, overshadowing the Willian double that gave Lampard a memorable triumph at the expense of his former Chelsea manager Mourinho. Chelsea boss Lampard wants firm action from the authorities, but he insists there was never any question of his team walking off the pitch in protest.
“All I know is Toni Rudiger said he heard racist chanting. I haven’t had a conversation with him. Of course, I support him,” Lampard said.
“I don’t know if it is getting worse (in football). Of course, we know there is a protocol. It needs to be dealt with strongly no matter what stadium it is.
“In terms of walking off the pitch, it needs to feel right. It would depend on what the players are feeling. If that moment comes it would be a group decision. We are not there yet so it is hypothetical.”
Tottenham manager Mourinho made it clear he can’t abide racism, but he then took a swipe at Rudiger, effectively accusing him of play-acting to get Son sent off.
“I hate racism in society, I hate racism in football. I’m disappointed that things like that can happen. The club is a very proud club in this kind of situation and internally we will try to deal with it,” he said.
Pressed on Rudiger’s theatrical fall, Mourinho said: “For me, it is not a red card. For me, it was really bad and basically kills the game.
“Rudiger for sure is having scans in the hospital on the broken ribs because it was really a violent situation!
“One of the reasons I fell in love with this country was we don’t call this kind of player a clever player, we call them other things that I refuse to say.”
– Tactical tweak –
Lampard disagreed, saying: “It was a red card. Sometimes in football, you have instinctive moments and it was that moment for Son. I would not have any words said about how Rudiger dealt with that.”
All the talk of racism meant Lampard was unable to fully savour the moment after masterminding the best result of his first season in charge of Chelsea. Cleverly changing his tactics with a switch from a 4-3-3 formation to a 5-2-3 system, Lampard out-witted Mourinho so effectively that Chelsea dominated from start to finish.
A run of four defeats from their last five league games had raised doubts about Lampard and his young team. But Willian’s superb opener was followed by a clinical penalty from the Brazilian as Chelsea held onto fourth place and moved six points clear of seventh-placed Tottenham.
Mourinho claimed Lampard’s tweak copied the formation used by one of his Chelsea predecessors Antonio Conte, But the current Blues chief said: “That didn’t factor in at all. Half the players weren’t here then. I’m not trying to clone someone’s system. It was more can this system help us against Tottenham.
“As we all saw the players took it on incredibly well. We had an element of protection but offensively it allowed us to have loads of the ball.”
Asked if the acrimonious afternoon had damaged his relationship with Mourinho, Lampard added: “Still buddies? Yes.” AFP.
Pix: Chelsea Manager, Frank Lampard