Derby’s Bradley Johnson did his best Luis Suarez impression by sinking his teeth into the shirt of Stoke City’s Joe Allen on a hostile night at the Bet365 Stadium.
Johnson’s lunge towards Allen as they grappled towards the end of the first half sparked an 18-man melee and the County man appeared lucky to escape with a yellow card with manager Frank Lampard sensibly taking him off at half-time for Tom Huddlestone.
Stoke manager Gary Rowett, who managed Johnson at Derby last season, tried to play down the incident down but replays looked damning and The FA could act if they think Allen was bitten on the shoulder.
Bradley Johnson took a bite of Joe Allen during Derby’s heated clash with Stoke on Wednesday
The pair got involved in a scuffle after the reckless challenge from Oghenekaro Etebo
‘We are not going to make any complaints,’ said Rowett. ‘I spoke to Joe and he said it wasn’t anything massively problematic. It was part of the melee, a moment in the game that probably looked worse than it was.’
Allen backed up his manager’s comments by claiming he was not bitten by Johnson.
Allen said: ‘People asked me at half-time what had happened and suggested I’d been bitten, but to clear it all up, that didn’t happen.
‘He might have caught a bit of my shirt but I think we can lay that one to rest.’
Bad feeling was in the air from the opening whistle. Rowett walked out on Derby to join Stoke six months ago and the travelling fans didn’t let him forget it, waving inflatable snakes and chanting abuse at him all evening.
The players were revved up and the eventual card count of fives yellows and a red was lenient.
Tom Ince gave 10-man Stoke all three points as he netted the winner on the 64th minute
Ince runs off to celebrate as Derby’s defenders lay dejected on the ground in the second half
Harry Wilson cancelled out Clucas’ opener with a superb free kick shortly after the restart
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Mid-table Stoke needed the points more and took the lead after 24 minutes when Allen threaded a pass for Sam Clucas to score.
But nine minutes later they lost Peter Etebo when he went studs-up on Richard Keogh and caught him on the shin.
‘I’m told he went over the top of the ball so it was a red card,’ said Lampard.
Derby defender Curtis Davies was stretchered off with an Achilles but the visitors still made the extra man count after 50 minutes by equalising with a free-kick from Liverpool loanee Harry Wilson.
Stoke looked vulnerable having drawn their previous three games but rallied well to score the winner after 64 minutes when Clucas crossed for Tom Ince from 12 yards.
England goalkeeper Jack Butland secured the win with good saves from Jack Marriott and Tom Lawrence.
‘The atmosphere was always going to be hot,’ admitted Lampard, who argued with Stoke coach Mark Sale about the home side’s late timewasting.
‘It took a lot of discipline and great determination to win with 10 men,’ said Rowett. ‘That was the biggest performance of our season. We didn’t crumble. I’m taking one of those snakes home with me!’
Clucas (right) gave the Potters a early first-half lead before all of the commotion
Etebo was shown a straight red in the 33rd minute after his challenge on Richard Keogh