LONDON (Reuters) - Liverpool’s Luis Suarez sunk his teeth into Chelsea’s top-four hopes with a last-gasp equalizer on Sunday but it was his bite on an opponent that overshadowed a day when Manchester City’s Premier League title defense almost ended at Tottenham Hotspur.
Suarez clearly clamped his jaw around the arm of Chelsea defender Branislav Ivanovic during the second half of an action-packed Premier League clash but escaped unpunished.
The controversial Uruguayan, who later issued an unreserved apology for his behavior, earned his side a 2-2 draw with a powerful header six minutes into stoppage time.
It was a bitter blow for Chelsea, especially as Tottenham had earlier closed the gap in the chase for Champions League qualification with a stunning late comeback to beat City 3-1.
Leading 1-0 through Samir Nasri’s early goal, City seemed set to prolong the title race for another week at least but three goals in seven minutes late on from Clint Dempsey, Jermain Defoe and Gareth Bale left them 13 points behind leaders Manchester United.
Tottenham’s smash and grab raid meant United can seal a record 20th English title if they beat relegation-threatened Aston Villa at Old Trafford on Monday.
While the title race is virtually done and dusted, Tottenham’s win and Chelsea’s draw at Liverpool intensified an intriguing top-four battle that could go to the wire.
Arsenal remained in third spot with 63 points from 34 games, Chelsea have 62 from 33 and Tottenham 61 from 33.
But Suarez again made the headlines for all the wrong reasons.
Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers condemned his behavior as “unacceptable” and the club’s managing director Ian Ayre said the bite was “not befitting of any player wearing a Liverpool shirt.”
Suarez swiftly apologized for his actions, first on Twitter and then on the club website (www.liverpoolfc.com).
“I am deeply sorry for my inexcusable behavior earlier today during our match against Chelsea,” he said.
“I have issued an apology and have tried to contact Branislav Ivanovic to speak to him personally. I apologize also to my manager, playing colleagues and everyone at Liverpool Football Club for letting them down.”
The Football Association confirmed it would begin an investigation into the biting incident on Monday and Graeme Souness, Liverpool’s former hardman midfielder now working as a Sky TV pundit, described it as “embarrassing” and said the reputation of the club was being damaged.
“It could make it very difficult for him to stay at Liverpool,” Souness said.
”They have to safeguard the good name of the club.
“Suarez’s track record is not great, this puts him in the last-chance saloon because it’s putting at risk everything that this clubs stands for.”
Suarez is no stranger to controversy.
He was once banned for biting an opponent in the Netherlands and last season was banned for racially abusing Manchester United’s Patrice Evra.
He was again in the thick of things on Sunday, creating Liverpool’s equalizer for Daniel Sturridge with a superb cross and conceding a penalty with a needless handball to allow Eden Hazard to put Chelsea 2-1 ahead.
He then headed in Sturridge’s cross to deny Chelsea who had gone in front before halftime through Oscar.
“It is one point, but when you are winning in the last second, it is incredible to play six minute and 45 seconds of injury time. You do not see that,” said Chelsea manager Rafael Benitez who was given a rousing reception by the fans of his former club Liverpool.
“I have not seen the (biting) incident, the players told me about it. We are not talking about that, we are so disappointed about the late goal.”
Earlier at White Hart Lane, Manchester City manager Roberto Mancini was left mystified as to how his side had lost to Tottenham despite looking comfortable for 75 minutes.
“For 80 minutes we didn’t concede a chance and we had two or three chances to score, it was all under control,” he said. “We lost because of two big mistakes.”
Even his Tottenham counterpart Andre Villas-Boas admitted that defeat had looked the likely outcome.
“In the second half we found our rhythm,” he said. “When we managed to score the first goal it was the key. We gained the momentum and the confidence and the emotions in the stadium changed and helped the team.”
Tottenham began brightly in the spring sunshine, with Bale, back after an ankle injury, in the thick of the action but the home crowd were silenced when City took the lead with their first foray forward.
Carlos Tevez did well down the right to hold the ball up and he slipped a clever pass for James Milner whose low cross was clipped past Hugo Lloris by former Arsenal player Nasri.
Tottenham enjoyed more of the ball after the break but with former City striker Emmanuel Adebayor almost anonymous, a comeback looked most unlikely until Villas-Boas made substitutions.
A moment of hesitation by Vincent Kompany allowed Dempsey to slide in and convert Bale’s low cross.
Energized, Tottenham went ahead when Lewis Holtby played a diagonal pass to fellow substitute Defoe and the England striker cut in to fire a right-foot shot past of Joe Hart.
Tom Huddlestone, another substitute, then played in Bale, who produced a crafty chip to complete a remarkable victory and leave City crestfallen.
Editing by Ed Osmond