Inside Chelsea vs Spurs ‘battle of the bridge’ – Vardy, Clattenburg and Fabregas

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Tottenham host Chelsea in the Premier League this afternoon and it’s fair to say there is no love lost between the two sides.

This weekend will be the 170th meeting between the two London sides since 1909, with Chelsea holding the bragging rights.

The Blues have won 73 times compared to their cross-city rivals’ 55, with 41 draws altogether.

Not all of those draws have been memorable, but one does stand out in the previous meetings between the teams.

The 2-2 draw on May 2, 2016 doesn’t appear remarkable at first glance. Harry Kane and Heung-min Son put Spurs 2-0 up at half-time before Chelsea fought back after the break through Gary Cahill and Eden Hazard.

But there is a good reason the occasion was dubbed “The Battle of the Bridge”.

Title-chasing Spurs

Coming into the match at the back end of the 2015/16 season, only one side had something to play for.

Chelsea were 10th following their early-season implosion under Jose Mourinho. Tottenham, meanwhile, were second, eight points behind leaders Leicester City with three matches remaining.

Mauricio Pochettino’s side had to win to keep their slim hopes of winning their first Premier League title – and first top-flight title since 1961 – alive.

Failure to do so would hand the trophy to Leicester, who had failed to secure it themselves the day before when they were held to a 1-1 draw by Manchester United at Old Trafford.

The Blues might not have needed a win for their league position, but they definitely needed it for pride – and to maintain their proud home record against Spurs.

Tottenham had not won at Stamford Bridge in 26 years – and they were not going to roll over to break that run.

Record-breaking dirtiness

Spurs were fired up for the occasion and it definitely showed. There was an edge right from kick-off, with Mousa Dembele leading the way in the aggression stakes.

The Belgian midfielder clashed with Cesc Fabregas and John Obi Mikel just minutes in, while Danny Rose joined the fun with a late challenge on Willian.

Kane and Son fired them into the lead, but that didn’t slow down the needle off the ball.

Never one to shirk a scrap, Diego Costa upped the ante with Jan Vertonghen before it all kicked off properly following another coming together of Rose and Willian.

Pochettino and coaching staff from either side piled onto the pitch to try and separate the two and a full-blown melee kicked off, with Dembele putting his fingers into Costa’s eyes.

VAR would have had a field day, but referee Mark Clattenburg went no further than handing out yellow cards.

The second half saw Erik Lamela go through Fabregas and stand on his hand before Cahill scored from a corner and Hazard curled a beauty into the top corner.

With Spurs’ title challenge dead, they went into overdrive in injury-time.

What are your memories of The Battle of the Bridge? Have your say in the comments section below.

Kyle Walker flicked some snot at Costa, Kane chopped Willian with a poor tackle, Dembele continued his antics, Eric Dier escaped a red for a terrible challenge on Fabregas and Ryan Mason came off the bench to go through the back of Hazard.

The final whistle blew, but things were far from over. Vertonghen and Michel Vorm took issue with Costa and Rose was in the thick of things as the handbags well and truly came out near the tunnel.

Following the mayhem, Tottenham picked up a Premier League record nine yellow cards, while Chelsea received three – Costa, by some miracle, not among the offenders.

Dembele later received a six-match suspension for violent conduct, but really Spurs had got off lightly.

Clattenburg’s admission

There was no miracle behind the lack of a red card in one of the dirtiest games in Premier League history, just Mark Clattenburg.

The self-styled celebrity referee completely failed to control things, giving players free reign to dive into mistimed challenges, push and shove and generally misbehave.

As it turned out, it was all part of Clattenburg’s hair-brained scheme to encourage drama.

"It was theatre. I went in with a game plan – that I didn't want Tottenham blaming Mark Clattenburg that they were going to lose the title," he told theMen In Blazers podcastin 2017.

"There should have been three red cards for Tottenham. I allowed them to self-destruct.

"All the media and people in the world went 'Tottenham lost the title'. If I send three players off, what's the headlines? 'Clattenburg cost Tottenham the title'.

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"It was pure theatre that they self-destructed."

He added: "I helped the game. It benefited from my style of refereeing. Some referees would have played by the book and Tottenham would have been down to seven or eight players and looking for an excuse.

"I didn't give them an excuse because my game plan was to let them lose the title."

Fabregas’ hatred

Fabregas copped more than his fair share of bad tackles and skullduggery from Tottenham players that day, but, in his eyes, it was all worth it.

The Spanish midfielder appeared on Sky Sports’ Monday Night Football programme before the match where he was asked if there might be another twist in the title race.

“Hopefully not,” the former Arsenal man replied, deadpan. “I don’t want Spurs to win it.”

Fabregas got his way and he has been dining out of it ever since.

“Today 4 years ago we won the Premier League,” he tweeted on May 2, 2020 before following it with another saying, “For Leicester City”.

“Winning a derby can feel close to winning a trophy and it was like this when I won the Battle of the Bridge with Chelsea,” Fabregas explained forThe Telegraphin June.

"Even though we had not won the game, drawing and stopping Tottenham winning the title felt similar to a trophy and I remember I went out to celebrate after the game, like I would have if we had just won the league or a cup.

“It was just one of those moments you wanted to enjoy."

Vardy’s party

Fabregas wasn’t the only one partying after the draw: everyone associated with Leicester City was doing the same.

That included striker Jamie Vardy, who invited the whole first team squad around his house in Melton Mowbray to watch the game which could crown the Foxes champions.

Leicester’s players gathered in the kitchen with beers and spirits for the occasion and once Clattenburg’s whistle blew all hell broke loose.

The Athleticreported that Vardy’s television got smashed, while Wes Morgan found himself on his back being dragged around the floor by Marcin Wasilewski.

“We all had a cry,” Robert Huth told the outlet. “There were certainly a few drinks. A few cigarettes as well. Certainly, it was a good time to be alive.”

The rest of the Leicester players and staff who were not already present arrived and partied until 4am when police and security were called to break things up after fans gathered outside to join in the fun.

  • Harry Kane
  • Jamie Vardy
  • Mauricio Pochettino
  • Premier League
  • Chelsea FC
  • Tottenham Hotspur FC

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