Matches between Chelsea and Tottenham Hotspur are often fiery affairs, as expected for a fierce London derby between two old rivals, but at times tempers can flare beyond boiling point and games can become ugly as players, and even managers, clash in heated scuffles.
The league meeting between the pair in 2016 was so bad it has infamously been branded the Battle of Bridge. Spurs had taken a 2-0 lead at Stamford Bridge as they knew they needed a victory to keep the pressure on Leicester City at the top of table.
But the visitors lost their heads as the Eden Hazard-inspired Chelsea levelled the tie to end Tottenham’s title hopes. In total, referee Mark Clattenburg, who described the game as ‘theatre’, issued a whopping 12 bookings — a record-breaking eight of which were shown to Tottenham players.
Fast forward to the current day and we’ve just witnessed what looks set to be known for years to come as the second Battle of the Bridge. With early bragging rights on offer in the capital, as Chelsea hosted Spurs in west London on gameweek two of the 2022-23 Premier League season, history repeated itself at Stamford Bridge.
The first 45 minutes was relatively tame, with Kalidou Koulibaly’s stunning volley from Marc Cucurella’s 19th-minute corner the difference at half-time. In fact, it wasn’t really until late in the second half that things really kicked off in the boiling London temperatures.
Chelsea looked to be in complete control of proceedings, and that was fairly reflected in the EPL betting markets. Pierre-Emile Højbjerg controversial goal with little more than 20 minutes left looked to change that. The Blues felt Kai Havertz had been fouled in the build-up, while there were also claims that Richarlison was in the eye line of Édouard Mendy when Højbjerg struck the ball from distance.
But it was former Chelsea boss Antonio Conte’s over-the-top reaction that resulted in the first melee. The Italian manager ran towards the home dugout as he celebrated his side’s equaliser and that infuriated Thomas Tuchel, sparking a head-to-head encounter between the head coaches and a fierce scuffle between their backroom staff on the sidelines.
When Reece James fired the Blues back into the lead less than 10 minutes later, Tuchel reacted by sprinting down the touchline in José Mourinho-esque fashion. Conte seemed to miss his opposite number’s celebration at the time, but that later posted on his official Instagram story that he would have tripped the German had he witnessed the festivity.
There was a feeling that there was still plenty more drama to come in the closing stages, and it all unravelled as Harry Kane headed home a 96th minute equaliser. Chelsea again felt hard done by as Cristian Romero visibly dragged Cucurella down by his hair before the preceding corner, which VAR could do nothing about as it wasn’t deemed a serious foul, and the managers clashed again as the final whistle went.
Tuchel was unhappy that Conte didn’t look him in the eyes during their post-match handshake and as resulted refused to let go of the Italian’s hand — giving it a good squeeze as they proceeded to scream in each other’s faces once again. After getting away with just a yellow from referee Anthony Taylor following their first coming together, both managers were given straight red cards, and will now miss their side’s next matches and have to pick up hefty fines.
The sides will meet for the return fixture at the Tottenham Hotspurs Stadium on February 25th and all eyes will be on north London.