Tottenham’s Dembele gets 6-game ban for eye gouge

Chelsea's Cesc Fabregas, left, challenges for the ball withTottenham's Mousa Dembele during the English Premier League soccer match between Chelsea and Tottenham Hotspur at Stamford Bridge stadium in London, Monday, May 2, 2016. (Frank Augstein/AP)

LONDON — Tottenham midfielder Mousa Dembele was banned for six games on Friday after appearing to gouge the eye of Chelsea striker Diego Costa in a fiery London derby in the English Premier League.

Dembele accepted the charge of violent conduct for the offence during Monday’s 2-2 draw at Stamford Bridge, but contested the claim by the English Football Association that the standard punishment of a three-game suspension would be insufficient.

The FA said an independent commission upheld the claim at a hearing.

Dembele will miss Tottenham’s final two Premier League games — against Southampton and Newcastle — and serve the rest of the ban next season. Spurs are second in the standings, and cannot catch Leicester above them after the draw against Chelsea.

The Belgium international, who has been one of Tottenham’s best players this season, was charged retrospectively because the incident was missed by match officials. It was one of several ugly exchanges in a heated match, during which players repeatedly lost their cool.

Spurs collected nine yellow cards and there was a mass melee near the dugouts after the final whistle, involving players and coaches from both teams.

Both Tottenham and Chelsea have been charged with three breaches of FA regulations for "failing to control their players and/or officials."

Tottenham manager Mauricio Pochettino said his team "crossed the line" with its behaviour but that he could understand it, given the pressure of the title race.

"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. "When you run and you go for the title, it is difficult sometimes to keep calm. I feel very proud of my players. We showed big character."

Pochettino said the match proved his side was no longer a soft touch, a tag often given to Spurs.

"I hear in the last two years always people say, ‘Tottenham was soft,"’ Pochettino said.

"This season we have shown we are not a nice team to play, not anymore. Our opponents don’t like to play against us because we show passion."

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