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Feb 3, 2013

Clarke: Popov has no excuse for spitting

West Bromwich Albion head coach Steve Clarke offered no excuses for Goran Popov after the left-back's sending-off for spitting just after half-time contributed to his side's 1-0 defeat at home to Tottenham Hotspur.

At the end of a week in which they have been dealing with the massive fall-out of the Peter Odemwingie saga, Albion's hierarchy find themselves having to put out further fires following an eighth successive League and Cup game without a victory.

The Macedonian international was shown a straight red card that will bring him a three-match suspension - and Clarke believes the 47th minute flashpoint could have cost his team the game.

"Of course it changes the whole complexion," he said. "You're playing a quality side and it's hard enough with 11 against 11. There's no excuse for that (spitting) in life, never mind on a football pitch. We spoke about it after the game as a group and I'd like to think he will apologise. I haven't given him chance to speak yet. I spoke.

"Goran let the team down. The most important thing is the team and group and if one person lets you down, you are entitled to be disappointed. They know I'm fair-minded but they know how far I will go to exert my authority."

Clarke insisted that any club sanctions would remain in-house and says he has no gripes with the decision to send him off.

"I didn't know what he had done but I know a ref like Mark Clattenburg wouldn't have sent him off without a reason," he added.

"I thought we were the better team in the first half and showed sign of our old selves from pre-Christmas. We felt this game was a chance to get back on an even keel - that's why events at the start of the second half are so disappointing. We had good control of the game and if anyone was going to score, it was us."

Popov became embroiled in a heated exchange with Spurs right-back Kyle Walker as the ball went out of play for an Albion goal-kick and clearly spat towards his counterpart without hitting him.

The dismissal left Albion with an uphill 40-minute fight to hold out a man light. Walker was booed by Albion supporters every time he touched the ball from then on and their mood was not helped when he played the short pass from which Gareth Bale sidestepped James Morrison and bulleted a left-foot shot past Ben Foster from 20 yards in the 67th minute.

Remarkably, Albion find themselves embroiled in further controversy amid claims that Jonas Olsson twice gestured at home fans at the Smethwick End of The Hawthorns in the second half and spat towards them, although he was some 20 yards up the pitch.

"I didn't see that," Clarke said. "I was here to watch football. How can I comment on it if I didn't see it?

"When I calm down, I will be able to take a lot of positives from it because we were playing against a very good Tottenham team. I'm angry because it was a game I thought we could get a positive result from. We made a slight tactical change and I thought in the first half it was working pretty well."

Spurs manager Andre Villas-Boas said of the Popov incident: "It is difficult to assess but I think Mark made the right decision. Spitting is horrible."

On the game itself, Villas-Boas said: "We started today with Bale through the middle and Clint Dempsey on the left. It is something he feels comfortable with. It gives us even that possibility for sure. It is something we have to look to.''

On Defoe's injury, he added: "He will have a scan and only when we see the results will we know the extent. It is a big blow because he is an important player and person for us, on and off the pitch.''

Tottenham have collected four points from two away games at Norwich and Albion in the space of four days, and Villas-Boas said: "It has been a very important week for us. To get four points away from home, with not much time between the games, is excellent.

"We have put ourselves in a very good position to threaten for third place. I am extremely happy apart from the big setback to Jermain Defoe.''

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