Brighton boss Roberto De Zerbi accused Cristian Stellini of a lack of respect after watching his side lose 2-1 at Tottenham in a fiery encounter.
Drama occurred before kick-off when De Zerbi was involved in a heated exchange with Spurs’ acting head coach Stellini and could be seen pointing animatedly at his fellow Italian.
It was the catalyst for a chaotic clash between the two top-four rivals, with both managers sent off, two Brighton goals disallowed and in the end efforts from Son Heung-min and Harry Kane enough to negate Lewis Dunk’s leveller and earn Spurs a vital three points.
“I am used always to respecting everyone inside of the pitch and outside of the pitch,” De Zerbi explained before he declined to reveal the exact reason for his irritation with Stellini.
“I don’t like it when people don’t respect me, but there are normal situations in football.
“It is personal things, no?
“I always respect everyone, especially the coaches. And I can answer for me, not for him.
“It was a personal situation and I told him what was my opinion, my idea. Not the words, not nothing, only my opinion.”
After De Zerbi and Stellini’s prickly pre-match greeting, Son initially took centre stage with a superb curled effort to score his 100th goal in the Premier League.
Brighton responded and Kaoru Mitoma had a goal disallowed after he controlled the ball with his bicep before Dunk headed home in the 34th minute from Solly March’s corner.
Danny Welbeck had the ball in the net early in the second half for the visitors, but the effort was ruled out after it hit the hand of team-mate Alexis Mac Allister before it beat Hugo Lloris.
There followed a melee between both sets of coaches and, although Stellini stayed out of the action, he was sent off for failing to keep his staff under control and De Zerbi received his marching orders for being in the thick of the action.
De Zerbi added: “Yes, the red card started this situation because I never said anything to the referee during the game. I didn’t put any pressure on the referee and I don’t like when the other bench puts pressure on the referee.
“We have to help the referee, not to put more pressure in this stadium, in this atmosphere.
“You can’t find one situation from my bench where I spoke to the referee to complain about some decisions. I think I could say something today, because nothing for the penalty for Mitoma, nothing for the goal for Welbeck and I am sorry for this.”
After De Zerbi and Stellini were sent off, it was Spurs who took control of proceedings and Kane’s fine 79th-minute finish from just inside the penalty area settled the contest.
Brighton wanted a late penalty when Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg caught Mitoma inside the area, but referee Stuart Attwell waved away appeals and VAR was not required, with Tottenham able to hold on to secure a fifth successive home win in the league and move seven points clear of Brighton.
Stellini said: “I can say only that what happens on the pitch stays on the pitch. Sometimes it seems something bad but is not.
“I want to let everyone understand that this is my second game as head coach for Tottenham and I want to give respect to all the managers in Premier League.
“I want to learn every day, I try to do my best and I want to give respect to everyone, so I don’t speak about anything that happen on the pitch.”
On his red card, Stellini added: “In that moment for me I was focused on the players, I wanted to speak to the players and I lose my focus on the bench.
“This is the rule. I have to respect the rule, but I think also if you look at what happened, I was polite and calm.”