London (AFP) – Antonio Conte has apologised after the Chelsea manager was sent to the stands for a furious touchline rant during his side’s 1-0 win over Swansea.
Conte was incensed with Swansea’s time-wasting throughout the first half at Stamford Bridge and his frustration boiled over when referee Neil Swarbrick failed to award Chelsea a clear corner.
The Italian’s constant complaining reached a peak with that incident and fourth official Lee Mason responded by telling Swarbrick, who immediately sent Conte to the stands.
Conte initially retreated to seats behind the Chelsea bench, but he had to watch the second half on television in the home changing room before seeking out Swarbrick and Mason to say sorry.
“It’s right to apologise for what happened during the game. I apologised to both of them,” he said.
“In the first half I saw Swansea was wasting time. I said this a few times to the fourth official.
“I didn’t see anything change. I was frustrated with this situation.
“I tried to tell him again. Then the referee took this decision. For sure I made a mistake. I was frustrated.
“I was a bit animated. For this reason the fourth official lost his patience.
“The fault is mine, not the fourth official.”
Conte could be fined for his first dismissal since his move to Chelsea 18 months ago.
However, he insisted he didn’t swear and unless Swarbrick disagrees in his report to the Football Association, Conte is unlikely to be hit with a touchline ban.
It is five years since Conte last saw red and he admitted being banished from the touchline was a painful experience.
“It’s a pity. I watched the rest of the game on a screen in the changing room,” he said.
“I could see very well but I don’t like to stay in there.
“I suffered in the changing room. You don’t have the possibility to communicate with your players. It’s very tough.”
– Great respect –
Conte’s angst was eased by Antonio Rudiger’s headed winner in the second half.
But even then he couldn’t be completely satisfied as leaders Manchester City snatched a late winner themselves against Southampton to remain 11 points clear of third placed Chelsea.
Asked how he felt about City’s superb run, Conte said: “I think Manchester City won another game at the end.
“I have great respect for a team that doesn’t give up until the end.
“If they are able to win many games at the end it means they trust until the end.
“They are doing something incredible. When you do this sort of situation you must be a bit lucky.
“For us it is important to look at ourselves. We are improving since the start of the season and we have good balance.
“My feeling now is we are better than the start of the season.”
Conte also admitted he doesn’t know if David Luiz’s knee injury will keep him out for a long period after the defender missed the Swansea game.
“I hope to not lose him for a lot of time,” he said.
Swansea remain second bottom as the pressure mounts on boss Paul Clement, whose team are without a win in six league games and haven’t scored in their last four.
“Most disappointing for me is the nature of the goal. We had players with their backs turned, they weren’t in the right position,” Clement groaned.
Clement’s cause wasn’t helped by another poor performance from Renato Sanches, the Portugal midfielder on loan in south Wales from Bayern Munich.
Sanches was hauled off at half-time and Clement admitted his player’s confidence is in tatters.
“He had a poor half. I feel for him,” Clement said.
“I don’t think he’s shown the talent he has this season. He’s struggling for confidence and form.
“I’m behind him but he’s got to start doing the simple things.”
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