London: Antonio Conte admitted his Tottenham Hotspur side still have to close the gap on Chelsea after a bad-tempered 2-2 draw at Stamford Bridge in the Premier League on Sunday.
Harry Kane’s last-gasp header earned Tottenham a point that flattered them but, after three successive defeats to Chelsea without scoring a goal since Conte took charge last November, it signified progress.
“It was an intense game,” Conte, who twice clashed with Chelsea boss Thomas Tuchel with both men being shown red cards after the final whistle, told reporters.
“For us this game was really tough but you know very well that to come here and to play Chelsea away it is always difficult. They have a really good team.
“But at the same time if I have to compare last season and maybe six months ago, we played three games without playing because the superiority was really clear. Today I have to be honest, in this game Chelsea showed to be better than us.
“We can do better, but at the same time we scored twice. In the last three games we didn’t score. We got a point and we showed, in my opinion, character and personality because my players wanted to stay in the game until the end.”
Italian Conte preferred not to go in to detail about the clashes with Tuchel - the second after the final whistle when the German appeared to offer a rather aggressive handshake.
“For sure I am not passive. If I see aggressivity, then my answer is with aggressivity but I repeat this is not a problem,” Conte said. “The most important thing is the game was a great game with two teams where there is a big rivalry.
“For us to get a point was really important.” Conte’s passion has clearly rubbed off on his Tottenham players who, despite being second best, showed true grit to salvage something at the death.
“For sure for me it was important because to lose three games in a row against the same coach I don’t like,” he said. “I hate to lose and you know very well I try to transfer my mentality and my passion into my players because you can be good tactically, technically but then you need good blood in your veins to fight for something important.
“I think we have started a process in this aspect and today I am happy because my players wanted to stay in the game despite the difficulty of the game.”