55 and 26, those are the two numbers that mattered most to both sets of supporters coming in to Monday night’s clash between Tottenham Hotspur and Chelsea. It’s been 55 years since Tottenham won their last league title, and a win at Stamford Bridge would keep that dream alive.
However, recent history wasn’t on Tottenham’s side as Spurs had not tasted victory at Stamford Bridge in 26 years.
Where a few derbies this season have been tame affairs, the early stages of this match proved that this match was not going to be played in good spirits.
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Spurs are normally the team that starts quicker in matches, but here it was Chelsea who had the better of the early play. A corner just four minutes into the match was headed wide by Gary Cahill, and the home side looked to control the opening moments.
Tottenham would create the best chance in the early salvos when Danny Rose’s attempted shot from 25 yards flew just over Asmir Begovic’s goal with the Chelsea keeper left to just watch.
After this point, referee Mark Clattenburg was given much to do as the match began to take on the characteristics of a blood and thunder derby. 13 minutes in, Rose clattered into Willian prompting Clattenburg to converse with the England left back. Just minutes later, Branislav Ivanovic repays Rose with a lunging challenge, and both defenders are rightly on their final warnings.
The kickings continued more so than any real chances being created. Walker, perhaps aggrieved by a few decisions that didn’t go Spurs way, thundered into Pedro on the far touchline and was rightly booked.
Just before the half, Willian and Rose got into another scuffle near the touchline, resulting in both parties being booked. In the resulting fracas, Mousa Dembele appeared to try and gouge Diego Costa in the eye, but the incident went unseen and unpunished by Clattenburg. Video evidence may not be so kind to the Belgian.
Amongst all the rough-and-tumble challenges, a football match actually broke out. After a small wobble early, Spurs regained their composure and began to pin Chelsea back.
Their impetus was rewarded on 33 minutes as a wonderful ball from Erik Lamela cut out the entire Chelsea back line, and Harry Kane kept his composure to go around Begovic and put Spurs in front. Spurs made the Blues pay for their lacklustre reaction to going behind with a second goal, this time from Son Heung-Min. A terrible square ball from Ivanovic found its way to Christian Eriksen who slipped in the South Korean who finished with aplomb, and Spurs looked to be cruising to victory.
Chelsea, though, had other ideas, and ratcheted up the intensity in the second half. Manager Guus Hiddink reacted to going to behind by introducing Eden Hazard for the ineffective Pedro at the break, and immediately Chelsea looked brighter.
Things looked even brighter in the 58th minute when Toby Alderweireld lost Gary Cahill on a corner, and the center back volleyed home a finish to bring Chelsea to back to 2-1.
Chelsea continued to press the attack with Eden Hazard looking more like the player of last season, but the equaliser having to wait until the 82nd minute to arrive. The Belgian initiated the move with a wonderful run down the left flank and exchanged passes with Costa before curling a wonderful shot with his right foot that found the top corner of Hugo Lloris’ net. It was no less than Chelsea deserved for their second-half display, and Stamford Bridge was rocking as the Blues looked to send Spurs home once more without a victory.
That didn’t stop some of the unsavoury elements of the match from creeping in. A few rugged challenges in the last minutes of the match drew the ire of the Chelsea players and supporters, which led to some pushing and shoving both during the match and on the way down the tunnel after the match had ended.
The events on the pitch will most likely result in charges for both sides for failing to control their players and possibly more after the incident post-match by the tunnel. However, the damage has already been done. Spurs have been denied the Premier League title and the 26-year wait goes on.