London (AFP) – Tottenham midfielder Mousa Dembele has been hit with a six-match suspension after being found guilty of violent conduct following his eye-gouge on Chelsea’s Diego Costa.
Dembele appeared to claw his fingers into Costa’s eye and down his cheek during Tottenham’s ill-tempered 2-2 draw at London rivals Chelsea on Monday.
The Belgium international wasn’t punished for the offence by referee Mark Clattenburg, but the incident was caught by television cameras and he accepted the Football Association’s charge.
“Mousa Dembele will serve a six-match suspension with immediate effect after he committed an act of violent conduct which was not seen by the match officials but caught on video,” an FA statement read on Friday.
“The Tottenham Hotspur midfielder accepted the charge but denied The FA’s claim that the standard punishment of three matches which would otherwise apply to this offence was clearly insufficient.
“An Independent Regulatory Commission upheld The FA’s claim at a hearing today and ordered that an additional three match suspension was appropriate.
“The player was involved in an incident with Chelsea’s Diego Costa in or around the 45th minute of the fixture at Stamford Bridge on Monday.”
It has been reported that Tottenham may contest the length of the ban, but at present Dembele, who played 36 times in all competitions this season, will now miss the last two matches of the current campaign against Southampton and Newcastle and the first four next term.
The 28-year-old’s clash with Costa was one of several ugly exchanges during the game at Stamford Bridge and both clubs have been charged by the FA for failing to control their players.
The game spiralled out of control as Tottenham blew a two-goal lead and conceded a late equaliser to end their hopes of catching Leicester, who were crowned champions as a result.
Tottenham manager Mauricio Pochettino conceded his team “crossed the line” but said he could understand their behaviour given the pressure of the title race.
“I think even if you play sometimes football with your friends, if you play for the honour, for the beers, or for the sandwiches, you want to win,” Pochettino said before the ban was announced.
“When you run and you go for the title, it is difficult sometimes to keep calm. I feel very proud of my players. I think we showed big character.
“Sometimes we crossed the line and if you cross the line you need to pay. We know the rules but I think it is a good lesson for us.”
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