Tottenham midfielder Mousa Dembele has accepted the Football Association’s charge of violent conduct, head coach Mauricio Pochettino has announced.
Dembele appeared to claw his fingers down Diego Costa’s cheek during Spurs’ 2-2 draw at Chelsea on Monday night.
The Belgian had until 6pm on Thursday to respond but he has not contested the charge and could now face a lengthy suspension.
The FA has said it considers the incident to be serious enough that “the standard punishment of three matches would be clearly insufficient”.
Pochettino would not comment on the potential length of a ban but said he had spoken to Dembele about the altercation.
The midfielder’s clash with Costa was one of several ugly exchanges during the game at Stamford Bridge and both clubs have been charged by the FA for failing to control their players.
Pochettino admits his team “crossed the line” but said he could understand their behaviour given the pressure of the title race.
“I think 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. I think we showed big character.
“Sometimes we crossed the line and if you cross the line you need to pay. We know the rules but I think it is a good lesson for us.
“We need to learn a lot and I am sure we will be stronger next season.”
Tottenham were once renowned for playing attractive football but also crumbling under pressure and Pochettino believes Monday proved his side are no longer a soft touch.
“I hear in the last two years always people say ‘Tottenham was soft’,” Pochettino said.
“But now we start to show character. Maybe we crossed the line, I can recognise this, I am not stupid. It is important to manage better our energy for the next season and ensure we learn a lot about this game.
“But this season we have shown we are not a nice team to play, not anymore. I think our opponents don’t like to play against us because we show passion.
“Maybe we show too much passion but we need to take this in a positive way.”
Pochettino was himself drawn into the fracas as he twice acted as peacemaker when two brawls erupted in the first half and at the full-time whistle.
The Argentinian confirmed he spoke to Chelsea captain John Terry after the match.
“We had a discussion on the pitch during the game,” Pochettino said.
“After he came and apologised and nothing happened. He is a big champion, the captain of Chelsea, great player and when you fight for the Premier League you want to win.
“We shook hands and we were very calm after the game.”
Pochettino revealed he had been in touch with Daniel Levy too and the Tottenham chairman had told his head coach he was “proud” of the team’s performance.
Discussions are also ongoing regarding Pochettino’s new five-year contract.
The 44-year-old has struck a verbal agreement over a two-year extension until 2021 and the deal was expected to be confirmed this week.
“It is not signed yet because it was a very busy week,” Pochettino said. “But we have a verbal agreement.”