Antonio Conte said a red card for Emerson Royal “killed” Tottenham Hotspur’s hopes of taking something from the north London derby against Arsenal on Saturday.
Tottenham was trailing 2-1 at The Emirates after a fumble by keeper Hugo Lloris allowed Gabriel Jesus to restore Arsenal’s lead shortly after the interval.
Royal then needlessly hacked down fellow Brazilian Gabriel Martinelli with the Arsenal player deep in his own half and referee Anthony Taylor’s decision to send him off was vindicated by a VAR check.
Conte was trying to make three substitutions when Granit Xhaka swept in Arsenal’s third goal to seal the win that kept the Gunners at the top of the Premier League table and left Tottenham digesting a first league defeat of the season.
Italian Conte was careful not to criticise Taylor but said the decision had been a major turning point.
“It was difficult after the red card, especially because in the starting eleven we played with the three strikers in (Son Heung-min, (Harry) Kane and Richarlison and also (Ivan) Perisic that is a wing-back but an offensive one.
“When you remain with the 10 men and you stay 2-1 down, it’s not simple because you have to cut strikers and try to find again the best balance with 10 men and then try to have counter-attacks and set pieces, to reach a draw.
“In this period they scored a third goal before I could make the substitutions. It was really difficult. I think that the red card killed the game.”
Asked whether he was surprised that the red card had stood after being checked by VAR, Conte suggested there was some inconsistency in reviewing such situations.
“They have to work a lot about this,” he said. “In Italy, they go on Thursday and stay together for three days to work together, to look at the video and try and improve.
“I don’t know if they do that in this country but it would be a good idea because the level is so high and we need the level of the referee and VAR the same.”
Despite that, Conte was frustrated about Royal’s rash moment.
“It can happen. Emerson is a young player, he is only 22, I think he has to try and exploit this situation to be better and in the next situation avoid totally the tackle,” Conte said.
After Kane’s equaliser -- a record 44th goal in London derbies -- Tottenham briefly got on top but they could have no real complaints about the outcome as their record in the fixture slumped to one win in the last 30.
“The game was in the balance after the first half. Then we conceded the second goal and we can do much better, but in every situation when you concede a goal you can always do better,” Conte said.
“Then after a few minutes the red card killed the game totally.”