The showcase fixture of Gameweek 5 in the Premier League will be the London derby between Tottenham Hotspur and Chelsea. Given the animosity that exists between both the sets of fans, this is one match that always has an edge. This time it will only be an emphatic affair, as the previous fixtures in the previous season were played behind closed doors. In such a situation, a huge crowd of spectators can be expected in this much-awaited match. In a derby match, however, there is always the potential for things to spiral out of control. And this was never more evident than in the ‘Battle of Stamford Bridge’ in 2016.
With both teams gearing up to write the latest chapter in an age-old rivalry, let’s take a look at some of the worst moments featuring both sides.
The two teams could not have entered the match with more different goals for the end of the season. Defending Premier League champions Chelsea were reeling off a shockingly poor season with few wins.
Meanwhile, Tottenham were in search of the title. However, they needed a win over Chelsea to avoid handing the title to Leicester City. And it fueled the Flames ahead of the game.
Chelsea players spoke publicly about sticking one in their rivals’ crotch. To make matters worse, Spurs had conceded two points in the previous game against West Brom.
Spurs knew that anything less than a win would see them lose the title. To make matters worse, they had not won at Stamford Bridge since 1990.
All of this combined to give us a match that saw 12 yellow cards – 8 for the visiting team. Amazingly, none were sent. But we are getting ahead of ourselves…
tottenham take control early
During the first half, Spurs showed why they were title contenders and why Chelsea were struggling up the table – and out of Europe next season.
His football under Mauricio Pochettino, when it was at its best, was difficult to contain. And here it proved to be the case as the will to win shone through.
Goals from Harry Kane and Son Heung-min saw them go into half-time with a two-goal advantage. What’s more, the match hadn’t yet descended into bad-tempered farce.
Only two Spurs players were booked and it looked like the main story of the second half would be how Chelsea bounced back. Or if they can fight back from this position.
However, everything changed in the blink of an eye due to a late tackle from Danny Rose on Willian.
The challenge came just before the end of the first half in front of the Chelsea dugout. And after that all hell broke loose.
A mass brawl ensued with Moussa Dembele all eyes on Diego Costa. Both the players involved in the incident were booked, which looked suspicious considering Willian.
Others believed that Rose should have seen red for the reckless challenge. Either way, it laid the groundwork for a bad second half of football.
Battle of Stamford Bridge and its aftermath
Chelsea clearly motivated in the second half to prove a point. Gary Cahill would halve the deficit from a corner which involved some questionable defending.
But it was Eden Hazard who would prove to be the difference maker. In the 83rd minute, he found space to cut in from the left and curl into the top-right corner.
The match remained a turbulent affair, and many believed that Spurs should have had two players sent off in the second half. Erik Lamela tripped over the hand of Cesc Fabregas, while Eric Dier wiped out Hazard from behind with a challenge from anywhere near the ball.
The confrontation continued after the game. Michel Verme, Spurs’ then reserve goalkeeper, was involved in a tunnel brawl with Costa. The melee even reached Chelsea’s interim manager Guus Hiddink.
The game saw Leicester win the title but Chelsea and Spurs were both fined. Afterwards, referee Mark Clattenburg revealed why he didn’t send off any players despite having every reason.
“It was theatre,” Clattenburg later recalled. “I went in with a gameplan: that I didn’t want Tottenham Hotspur to blame Mark Clattenburg for them losing the title. Tottenham should have had three red cards.
“I allowed them to self-destruct so all the media, all the people in the world went, ‘Tottenham lost the title’.
“If I sent three players off Tottenham, what are the headlines?, ‘Clattenberg cost Tottenham the title’. It was pure theater that Tottenham self-destructed against Chelsea and Leicester won the title.”
Few can argue with his logic, however his lax grip on the proceedings only made things worse. And thus, the ‘Battle of Stamford Bridge’ escalated an already heated rivalry.