Fernando Torres is braced to receive a further misconduct charge for scratching Tottenham Hotspur's Jan Vertonghen in the face on Saturday. The Football Association is to make a decision once it has received the referee Mike Dean's assessment of the flashpoint between the players.
The Chelsea forward was booked after clashing with Vertonghen near the touchline six minutes into the second half, though it was unclear whether Dean had penalised the striker for a trip that had left the Belgian grounded, or for raising his hands when the pair squared up. Neither the referee nor his assistant was positioned to witness Torres clawing the side of his marker's face and, if Dean confirms in his report on Monday that he did not see that offence, there is the potential for the FA, under a pilot scheme being trialled this season, to ask their three-man panel of former referees to consider retrospective punishment.
Torres was subsequently, and harshly, shown a second yellow card after jumping in aerial challenge with Vertonghen, a decision which enraged the Chelsea manager, José Mourinho, who denounced the Spurs player as "a disgrace" for "pretending he was hurt and staying on the floor". Torres will serve a one-match suspension for the dismissal. There is no scope for an appeal in cases of two cautions but, if found guilty of violent conduct over the scratch, he would incur a further three-match ban and be ruled out of all Chelsea's domestic fixtures in October.
That would represent a huge blow to club and player, particularly with the 27-year-old having mustered arguably his most impressive form in a Chelsea shirt since joining from Liverpool in January 2011 to spearhead a second-half revival at White Hart Lane. Torres, perhaps riled by his running feud with Vertonghen, was a man possessed only to end up seeing red. That was his third dismissal while with the club – his first, against Swansea two years ago, had checked a similarly impressive personal display – but he will benefit from his manager's support in the weeks ahead, with Mourinho impressed by the player's input.
"He's very strong and, physically, he's living a very good moment," Mourinho said. "I watched Fernando's matches for Chelsea in other seasons on the television and he looked to me a bit heavy, a little slow. Now he looks in fantastic shape. He knows I'm happy with his performances.
"He knows I trust him and that's important. If I leave him out, he knows I'm trying to do the best for him and the team. He's not under the pressure he was under in other years and, physically, we are working with him."
This bruising occasion should act as a benchmark for both teams. Tottenham's first-half dominance was evidence that they can thrive at the top of the division, their approach an impressive blend of physical power – typified by the excellent Mousa Dembélé but down the entire spine of the side – and instinctive skill and trickery. Andros Townsend and Christian Eriksen were live wires, the Dane's involvement in Gylfi Sigurdsson's goal typical of an irrepressible first-half performance. Townsend unsettled Ashley Cole when Tottenham were at their more spritely but his display rather tailed off from the moment he dived over a Frank Lampard challenge and was booked. The half-time apology to Dean was recognition of fault.
Yet, for all that Spurs' blend was reminiscent of Mourinho's original Chelsea line-up, the visitors' class of 2013 summoned bite, urgency and, as a result, dominance after the interval. Ramires was more influential in central midfield, snuffing out Eriksen's threat, while Juan Mata, who will start in Bucharest on Tuesday, sliced passes through Tottenham's backline. Torres was explosive at the team's tip and so ascendant were his side that Mourinho, sensing Spurs were "in trouble", was about to fling on Samuel Eto'o to work alongside the Spaniard when Dean flashed red and bold aspirations were instantly choked.
They still resisted and will point to their own show of strength, typified by John Terry's leap to convert Mata's free-kick to equalise, as encouragement. The centre-half has played every minute of the club's Premier League campaign to date without a hint of the fitness issues that have interrupted recent seasons and the maintenance of that level of involvement and influence will have implications for his contract negotiations.
"The way he is playing he has a future in China, he has a future here, he has a future where he wants," added Mourinho, with his captain's deal to expire next summer. "I told him from day one I don't want to speak about the end of contract or about signing a new contract; we just speak about working very hard from a physical point of view so we don't have the same kind of problems we had in the past years. And when you play regular you are a very good player. And very good players have no problems with new contracts."
Man of the match Mousa Dembélé (Tottenham Hotspur)