“How is that intentional?” the Hull City manager roared going down the tunnel. “How is that intentional?”
Bruce was talking about referee Michael Oliver’s harsh handball call on Ahmed Elmohamady, which gave Tottenham Hotspur a 79th-minute penalty and three points they didn’t necessarily deserve, but spoke with even more intent himself afterwards.
In comments that will likely see the manager receive a significant fine, Bruce described it as a “joke decision”, said that Oliver had “ballsed it up” and “robbed” his players of a well-earned point, as well as making allusions about bigger clubs receiving favourable decisions.
The referee “absolutely couldn’t wait to give it”, Bruce stated, with that comment likely to bring the most attention from officials.
The incident took place when Jan Vertonghen attempted to cross from the left, only for the ball to strike Elmohamady’s hand. The Hull player’s arm was in a natural position, however, and couldn’t do anything to prevent contact. By the time Bruce gave his post-match press conference, his fury had given way to frustration.
“I hope you write it because I can’t say it, otherwise I get fined and all that nonsense, but it’s a joke decision, an absolute joke decision. The more I see it... it’s hit his leg for a start and then goes up on his arm. How do you give a penalty in those sort of situations?
“They are all getting assessed up in the stand and they are doing this and they are doing that... and they give decisions like that, which just baffles me. It really, really does. And I have to ask the question: would we have got it?”
Bruce was quizzed on whether he had such a decision since leaving Manchester United as a player. “Maybe. You know what I’m alluding to. The disappointing thing for me is I’ve got lads playing today who are desperate to play in the Premier League, desperate to make a fist of it and they are now questioning themselves, thinking it’s not Everton last week, we got some decisions wrong against us and then today.
“They [referee and his assistants] have given it and in my opinion couldn’t wait to give it, absolutely couldn’t wait to give it. There’s a huge frustration for us.
“What am I supposed to say? [He’s] totally ballsed it up. If my player made a decision like that, he wouldn’t be playing next week or I if keep making decisions like that, I get the sack.”
As Bruce himself admitted, the frustration was all the more keenly felt because his side had been so successful in completely nullifying Spurs. Although Andre Villas-Boas was obviously content with the win, the performance brought up a few concerns.
Other than two Roberto Soldado chances and one for Paulinho, they never looked like scoring in a flat display that has become something of a trend at White Hart Lane.
The Spurs manager acknowledged both the harshness of the penalty and the lack of innovation in attack, but pointed to the negativity of both the opposition and — more notably — the crowd. The manager feels the “tense, difficult atmosphere” has exacerbated the situation, and is something the players have felt for some time.
“To put myself in this situation is very difficult for me. [The fans] are the essence of football. But we have managed to break the record of away fans because we play comfortably. But at home it’s difficult. It is like it drags the ball into our goal instead of the opponent’s goal. I don’t intend to send them a warning or hurt their feelings but it’s something that’s felt within the group. I represent the group and this is a feeling that invades us in fixtures like this.”
That feeling was lifted when Soldado stroked the ball into the corner for his fourth goal of the season, his third from the spot. The crowd were also buoyed when Andros Townsend eventually came back on with a strapped-up wrist after falling into a photographers’ pit. Bruce was not so happy. The two teams meet again on Wednesday in the League Cup.
“Yeah, great wonderful,” the Hull manager said. “Maybe a different referee.”
TOTTENHAM HOTSPUR: Lloris 7; Walker 7, Chiriches 7, Dawson 7, Vertonghen 7; Sandro 6 (Dembele 46, 6), Paulinho 7; Townsend 7, Holtby 6 (Eriksen 60, 6), Lennon 5 (Defoe 70, 6); Soldado 6
HULL CITY: Harper 7; Rosenior 7 (McLean 84, 6), Davies 6, Bruce 7, McShane 7, Figueroa 6; Elmohamady 6, Meyler 6, Huddlestone 7, Boyd 7 (Brady 84, 6); Sagbo 7 (Proschwitz 87, 6).
Referee: Michael Oliver 5.