Premier League

Chelsea 2-2 Tottenham: The Battle of the Bridge which gave Leicester the Premier League title in 2016

Tom Gott
Apr 3, 2021, 7:00 PM GMT+1
The match has been dubbed the Battle of the Bridge
The match has been dubbed the Battle of the Bridge | Catherine Ivill - AMA/Getty Images

"It was always going to boil over. A couple of times it got out of hand but players are fighting for points and titles. It's emotions - that's football."

That's how Chelsea captain John Terry described his side's meeting with Tottenham Hotspur on 2 May 2016. It's safe to say that Terry hit the nail on the head with that but, to truly understand the game, you have to first understand the landscape of the Premier League at the time.

The 2015/16 campaign was a blur for the majority of the fans of English football. Pretty much every team in the top flight had been massively disappointing. Chelsea ended up tenth, Liverpool were eighth, Manchester United were fifth and Manchester City snagged fourth. Nobody knew what was going on, and Leicester City were there to pounce.

The Foxes were the surprise package of the season, and they just couldn't be stopped. Whenever it looked like a poor result would derail their season, other teams dropped points and allowed ​Leicester to maintain their advantage.

Claudio Ranieri's men had been utterly inspirational. The likes of Jamie Vardy, N'Golo Kanté, Riyad Mahrez and Danny Drinkwater all proved to be top-flight stars. Nobody believed they would go on to win the title but, with three games to go, they were seven points clear of second-placed ​Spurs.

Leicester's 36th game of the season came on Sunday 1 May, and they battled to a 1-1 draw with ​United. That meant that Spurs had to win each of their last three games to even have a chance of winning the title. First up was a trip to Stamford Bridge to meet ​Chelsea.

Chelsea v Tottenham Hotspur - Premier League
Pochettino and Hiddink has no idea what would come to pass | Catherine Ivill - AMA/Getty Images

This should have been an easy win for Spurs. They were playing some of the best football in their recent history, while Chelsea were at the lowest point they had been since Roman Abramovich's arrival in 2003. 

José Mourinho had been sacked as manager and Guus Hiddink was brought in as his replacement. The Dutchman's job was just to steady the ship, because the season was already a write-off for Chelsea. They had nothing but pride to play for.

However, there was an added incentive for Chelsea. If they stopped Spurs winning, that would end their slim hopes of lifting the ​Premier League trophy.

The Blues were without goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois through suspension, while Eden Hazard was dropped to the bench after only recently overcoming a hip injury. All the signs suggested that Spurs would overwhelm them.

That looked to be the case early in the game. Spurs; high-tempo approach gifted them plenty of chances to open the scoring, and they did so after 34 minutes. Érik Lamela's through ball left ​Harry Kane one-on-one with Asmir Begović, and the Spurs man rounded the goalkeeper and tapped home to give his side the edge.

It was 2-0 just minutes later. Son Heung-min worked his way through Chelsea's defence to fire past Begovic, and the Blues looked out on their feet. 

Son Heung-Min
Son fires Tottenham into the lead | Catherine Ivill - AMA/Getty Images

With Chelsea clearly devastated at not being able to halt Spurs' title push, the tension began boiling over on the pitch shortly before half-time. Willian was caught by the arm of Danny Rose near the touchline, and the Brazilian responded by squaring up to Rose.

Mauricio Pochettino stepped onto the field to separate the two men, and the two teams also joined in to create a very minor scuffle. However, things escalated fairly quickly as midfielder Mousa Dembélé was seen raking the eye of Diego Costa, but the referee clearly did not see it as no further action was taken. 

Both Rose and Willian were booked, with Rose joining teammates Kyle Walker and Jan Vertonghen in the referee's notebook before the break. 

Clearly not prepared to lie down for their fierce rivals, Hiddink brought Hazard off the bench at half-time. The Belgian wizard has a way of changing games, and that's exactly what he did.

Hazard was imperious off the bench | BEN STANSALL/Getty Images

Lamela got himself booked early on in the second half for a vicious challenge, before Chelsea pulled a goal back. After 57 minutes, centre-back Gary Cahill poked home from a corner. Suddenly, the Blues had a renewed sense of optimism, while there was real fear among the Spurs players that this may not be their night.

The two sides exchanged chances, but neither could find a way through. Christian Eriksen picked himself up a yellow card but, with 82 minutes on the clock, it looked like Spurs had done enough.

Then Hazard appeared.

A fantastic one-two with Costa gifted Hazard a clear path at goal, and his first-time strike curled beautifully away from Hugo Lloris and into the top corner to level the scoreline. Advantage Leicester.

Spurs began to look like a side who knew they had thrown it all away. All composure was discarded as they started to express their frustrations physically.

Lamela, who was already on a yellow card, appeared to go out of his way to stamp on Cesc Fàbregas' hand, but this was also missed by the referee. But that was just the start.

A terribly late challenge from Eric Dier on Hazard left the Chelsea squad furious. It was the tackle of a man who had lost his head, and the Blues weren't having it. A brawl ensued, with both Dier and John Obi Mikel shown yellow cards.

Kane committed a similar lunge on Willian moments later, before Dembélé struck the ball at the Brazilian on the ground. Kane was booked after one more brawl, and Dier sparked yet another just seconds later with a second awful tackle on Fàbregas which somehow was not deemed to be another yellow.

The tackles were flying in | BEN STANSALL/Getty Images

Ryan Mason joined the yellow-card party with his own terrible lunge on Hazard. He grabbed the Belgian round his neck when Hazard stood up to complain, but again was allowed to remain on the field.

The full-time whistle was blown soon after but, believe it or not, the fun wasn't over just yet.

Pochettino and Fàbregas clashed as the players left the field, so Hiddink did his best to usher the Spaniard down the tunnel. Tempers flared as more players got involved, and 69-year-old Hiddink ended up being pushed down a small flight of stairs in the dugout.

Unsurprisingly, Chelsea were furious, and they all rushed to protect their boss and confront Pochettino and the rest of the Spurs group. The hot-headed Costa found himself in the middle of it all (as usual), and he had to be held back from all angles as he looked prepared to start swinging.

Chelsea v Tottenham Hotspur - Premier League
There was a scuffle as the players went down the tunnel at full-time | Catherine Ivill - AMA/Getty Images

Fortunately, things calmed down and Hiddink was unharmed, and the two teams were quickly forced down the tunnel to bring an end to one of the most ill-tempered games we have ever seen. Spurs' title push was over, and Leicester were champions.

Spurs finished the game with a record-setting nine yellow cards, while Chelsea added three of their own through Willian, Branislav Ivanović and Mikel, in what was one of the ugliest games of football in Premier League history.

It was a game which is remembered for pretty much everything apart from the actual football, and there's no chance it will be forgotten anytime soon.

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