Tottenham welcome Chelsea to the Premier League on Sunday in one of the elite’s most fiery derbies.
Fans of both teams can claim they have bigger opponents elsewhere in the form of Arsenal or others, but there is rarely an elite clash that sees so much bad blood – and the ‘battle of the bridge ”from 2016 always stands out.
This is where the rivalry boiled over, with Spurs chasing a first Premier League title and facing Chelsea to maintain their trophy aspirations, but things didn’t quite go as planned.
Seven points behind league leaders Leicester with three games to go, anything less than a Spurs win would see the Foxes clinch the title, and it should have been easy.
Jose Mourinho had been sacked as Chelsea boss for the second time, with the club lingering in the middle of the table under Guus Hiddink and on their way to their worst league result since 1996.
Chelsea had nothing left to play with, but that’s the kind of logic that only applies to a normal game.
Ahead of the game the magnitude of what was to come had already been confirmed, with foreign Chelsea players showing the rivalry to be far more universal than just a local derby.
“The fans, the club, the players, we don’t want Tottenham to win the Premier League,” said Eden Hazard.
“I hope not, I don’t want Spurs to win it,” Cesc Fabregas confirmed.
Ex-Arsenal midfielder Fabregas may have been the first trigger, kicking Mousa Dembele just minutes before the Belgian raised his hand to John Obi Mikel.
Fussy tackles then started popping up all over the place, with Kyle Walker grabbing the game’s first booking for an unnecessary kick to Pedro, but not everyone was so distracted.
Harry Kane and Heung-min Son capitalized on the ongoing drama, keeping their cool to give Spurs a 2-0 lead at halftime, while everyone seemed more concerned about the kicks.
Diego Costa was the human embodiment of what would soon unfold when he started rutting with Jan Vertonghen, and then the first real spark came.
Clearly not content with being two fewer goals and having already hacked Chelsea’s Willian, Danny Rose decided he wanted another bite from the Brazilian, who this time reacted.
Mauricio Pochettino jumped onto the pitch to break the pair, triggering the first scrum of the match.
An untied Demeble sort of avoided red for an eye gauge on Costa, but only Willan and Rose picked up yellow cards to complete the half, giving Pochettino 15 minutes to calm everyone down.
Erik Lamela must have heard something else in the dressing room from his compatriot Argentina, jumping high on Fabregas’ ankles before stepping on his hand as the Spaniard recovered.
It was enough for Spurs to lose the intrigue altogether, first conceding Gary Cahill before a stunning Hazard curler postage stamp handed Leicester the title.
Eric Dier, already on a reservation, appeared determined to end Fabregas’ Euro 2016 campaign with a gruesome lunge that went unpunished, and a previously calm Kane even joined in on the action once he did. he realized that all was lost.
Mark Clattenburg whistled full-time, but he could just as easily have rung the bell for the second round, as another scuffle broke out on the sideline, again with master agitator Costa as the centerpiece.
Spurs clinched the league record for most yellow cards given to a single team in a game with nine, resulting in a penalty from the FA, but it was disconcerting that there wasn’t at least a red, until a year later.
Clattenburg left England for a post of chief arbitrator in Saudi Arabia, and then opened up surprisingly to what happened during the “Battle of the Bridge”.
“I authorized [Spurs] to self-destruct so that all the media, all the people of the world said ‘Tottenham lost the title’, ”Clattenburg said in 2017.
“If I fired three Tottenham players, what are the headlines?” “Clattenburg cost Tottenham the title.” It was pure theater that Tottenham self-destructed against Chelsea and Leicester won the title.
“I helped the game. I have certainly benefited the game through my refereeing style.
“Some referees would have played by the book. Tottenham would have been reduced to seven or eight players and probably lost and they would have looked for an excuse.
“But I didn’t give them an excuse, because my game plan was, they lose the title.”
Clattenburg’s tactics arguably risked serious injury ahead of Euro 2016 the following month, but they undoubtedly secured one of the league’s cult games, for all the wrong reasons.
Found this weekend, only six players remain from that fateful evening in West London.
But as history shows, this rivalry is about far more than the staff, and another battle could ignite on Sunday as the fiercest Premier League season in years takes a different turn.
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