The tale of Chelsea double-headers against Tottenham

Chelsea versus Spurs over the 112 years since these London rivals first played each other is a rich story and a multi-layered saga, but one recurring and dramatic theme among all the sub-plots has been the two-part cup-ties we have played against each other, a sequence continuing this week.

Some of the meetings, like the current tie in which the Blues hold a 2-0 lead at the midway stage, have been genuine two-legged affairs, all in the League Cup competition and all at the semi-final stage. Others, in the League Cup and FA Cup, are ties that ended up requiring a replay after the sides could not be separated in the initial game, although in one case especially it was remarkable they were not.

Here, to help build the excitement ahead of today’s concluding second leg of our latest cup encounter with Tottenham, we bring back to life those previous two-match meetings with some words, images and video…


Tambling takes down Tottenham

Our sequence of two-game tales begins back in January 1964 when a Tottenham side that had won the Double and an additional FA Cup earlier in the decade were pitched against Tommy Docherty’s emerging and exciting young side, freshly promoted to the top flight.

Although we had lost to Spurs 3-0 at Stamford Bridge in a league game earlier in the season, we were in good form, on a run of nine games unbeaten heading to White Hart Lane for an FA Cup tie.

This initial match was no classic – a 1-1 draw – although the Chelsea fans present were clear winners in terms of supporting their team with Spurs having to overcome recently critical home support, as noted by our former star striker Jimmy Greaves who captained the north Londoners on the day.

‘We won a psychological battle with the crowd and with ourselves,’ Greaves said afterwards. ‘In the replay at Stamford Bridge the pressure will be on Chelsea because this time we will not have our crowd to beat.’

The Blues were a little unlucky not to have won at the Lane. Bert Murray from a cross for the outstanding Frank Blunstone equalised an early goal.

Bobby Tambling had missed the first game but was fit for the replay after nearly a month out and such was the appetite for a match held just four days after the first one that 70,000 crammed into Stamford Bridge, setting a new record for a floodlit game at the stadium.

The bumper attendance witnessed crunching tackle after crunching tackle with Greaves and Blues skipper Terry Venables brought together by the referee in an attempt to calm matters down.

Tambling, from a Murray cross, gave Chelsea a lead which could have been doubled soon after when he was fouled but Venables’ penalty was saved. The second goal did come in the second half, Tambling returning the compliment when he crossed for Murray to head home.

‘On this form we can go onto Wembley,’ declared Docherty in typically exuberant style. ‘It will take quite a team to stop us now.’

That team actually proved to be Huddersfield Town, in the very next round! The Doc’s side would however go on to make two semi-finals and then the final in the three following seasons.


Hudson’s unbelievable late winner

Chelsea’s significant League Cup history against Tottenham began 50 years ago when the Blues from west London, who the previous season had won the European Cup Winners’ Cup, and the Lilywhites from the north of the capital, who were the League Cup holders, were drawn against each other at the semi-final stage. The first game was at Stamford Bridge, and what entertainment it provided!

Both sides were renowned for their flair at the time, in contrast to the Arsenal side that had just won the Double (this was a strong period for London football), and they served up a 3-2 scoreline in the first leg.

Peter Osgood, the King of Stamford Bridge, scored the opener after a collision in the Spurs rearguard but a rapid-fire response by Tottenham after half-time took them into the lead, with their star striker at the time Martin Chivers scoring one the two goals.

Chelsea had added to our attack by buying Chris Garland for a sizeable fee earlier in the season and he made his maiden goal repayment with a headed equaliser from a corner. A careless handball by Tottenham presented the chance of a penalty winner with five minutes remaining and John Hollins duly converted it.

That was before Christmas and we took that one-goal advantage to White Hart Lane in early January 1972 and almost held it for the whole of the first half, but Chivers smashed in a volley.

Despite the aggregate scores being level, Chelsea weren’t knocked out of our stride and playing with belief, levelled on the night through a wonderful strike from outside the area by Garland.

However it was now our turn to commit a handball equaliser, Alan Hudson the culprit, but the brilliant midfielder was to make amends with one of his most famous, and least spectacular goals.

Spurs had drawn the tie level with 10 minutes to go but into the final minute with extra time seemingly inevitable, the Blues had a free-kick out wide, almost like a corner.

‘I intended to cross to the near post – not a shot,’ Hudson later admitted. Somehow his low delivery evaded the Tottenham defence and goalie Pat Jennings.

‘After giving away that penalty I felt sick. I just couldn’t believe it when I saw the ball creep in,’ Hudson said.

The Chelsea-Spurs rivalry had just shifted up another gear or two, although it was the last hurrah for Chelsea’s Kings of the King’s Road side. We lost the League Cup final to Stoke and stars departed soon after as financial gloom descended on Stamford Bridge.


Young Blues put Gazza in the shade

It was the quarter-final that brought the teams back together in the League Cup in January 1991, initially a one-leg tie but with a replay added for good measure.

At the Bridge for the initial game, Bobby Campbell’s Blues handed Spurs what could reasonably described as a goalless battering. Quite how the scoreline remained 0-0 was major puzzle given the difference in the performance levels and it is a game most remembered for the torrid time young Graeme Le Saux gave the Tottenham defence, their former England centre-half Terry Fenwick in particular.

‘I think I announced myself then as a player with a lot of potential because people will always talk to me about that game even now,’ Le Saux later recalled.

‘They will mention how I played at a level they’d not seen from me before, and stood out among some very good players on the pitch that day. I didn’t score even though I had a couple of chances, but the most frustrating thing for me was the fact I rushed home to watch it on midweek Match of the Day and the Gulf War had broken out [the TV highlights were shelved for live TV news coverage of the conflict], so I’ve never seen that match back but I know I played well and the fans at those night games really enjoyed them.’

They enjoyed the replay even more. Big for Spurs was that their superstar Paul Gascoigne, in his pomp after Italia ’90, had missed the first game through suspension but was back for the White Hart Lane rematch.

They had not accounted for Le Saux’s young contemporary in the Chelsea side, Damien Matthew, enjoying one of the games of his career and outplaying Gazza in the middle of the park. The whole Chelsea side played brilliantly. Andy Townsend opened the scoring with Kerry Dixon beating goalie Erik Thorstvedt to a loose ball to double our lead.

‘I scored the last goal with a penalty, we murdered them that day,’ was Dennis Wise’s recollection. ‘That was the best win there apart from the 6-1!’

Sadly, a massive underperformance in the semi-final against second-tier Sheffield Wednesday meant Wembley would have to wait.


The one we will skip quickly past!

An unbeaten run both home and away against Spurs in all competitions had continued to grow and another notch was added when we played them in a League Cup semi-final first leg at Stamford Bridge in January 2002.

Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink wasted little time in establishing a 1-0 lead. It was another example of his lethal combination with Eidur Gudjohnsen when he lifted a return pass over Spurs keeper Kasey Keller.

Les Ferdinand levelled in the second half but with 15 minutes left, Hasselbaink re-established the one-goal advantage to take to Tottenham with a 30-yard free-kick over the wall.

Confidence was high for the second leg, as it should be after 27 games unbeaten against local rivals, but after a mistake gifted a goal in the first minute, the wheels came off at the Lane and we went 5-0 down and had Hasselbaink sent off in a case of mistaken identity (Mario Melchiot had pushed Teddy Sheringham in the face) before we scored a very late consolation.

5-1 – but normal service was quickly resumed with two 4-0 wins against Spurs later in the season.


Sheva arrives

The overall unbeaten run may have disappeared in 2002 but at home it endured up until 2018, although it never felt more under threat during that time than when we hosted Spurs in an FA Cup quarter-final in March 2007.

Trailing 3-1 at half-time, with one of the Tottenham goals a dispiriting own goal, it was the first time we had shipped three at the Bridge in the Jose Mourinho era, and this was his third season. But this Chelsea vintage under him was nothing if not resilient and a Frank Lampard goal had kept us in the contest.

The hoped-for step-up in performance came in the second half and although not gaining absolute control of the game, the Blues looked to have goals in us and Lampard scored his second from close range. Still 3-2 down, time ticked on however. Spurs clocked up the bookings in their efforts to keep us at bay and the minutes were running out in this maximum-paced, breathless encounter.

There were 86 of them on the referee's watch when substitute Salomon Kalou dispatched a sweet, close-range volley from a Didier Drogba header for 3-3. Even then Spurs went straight down the other end and hit the woodwork. It was a true FA Cup classic.

The replay was equally high tempo but with defences on top in the first half. John Terry had missed the first game but was back for this one.

Then, eight minutes into the second half came the moment. Record signing Andriy Shevchencko from out on the right cut inside and let rip with a left-footed cross-shot of true genius. It flew into the far corner of the net. We did not see as much of it as we would have liked at Chelsea but this was reminiscent of peak Sheva – his finest Chelsea moment.

Not to be left behind, Shaun Wright-Phillips then produced his. The winger who had been given a more central midfield role smashed a left-foot volley into the roof of the net.

Spurs pulled a goal back from the penalty spot but it was too little too late for them. Chelsea went on to win the FA Cup that season.


Holding our nerve

Still fresh in the memory is our semi-final in 2019, especially for those with a keen interest in VAR in its early days or fans of Kepa’s penalty shoot-out heroics.

Tottenham were housed up temporarily at Wembley where they hosted us in a first leg from which they emerged with a slender lead, given to them by a Harry Kane penalty awarded for a foul on him by Kepa, but not immediately.

VAR checked whether to overrule an offside call against Kane earlier in the move, and checked, and checked, and checked again before deciding do so.

That was slender as well and Maurizio Sarri post-match questioned whether the VAR system was being properly applied in England, remembering chaos that had ensued in Italy when it was first introduced.  

There was more frustration for the Blues when an N’Golo Kante shot and a deflected cross from Callum Hudson-Odoi, making one of his first starts, both hit the post, but losing the first leg 1-0 we were still very much alive in the tie.

The Blues struck first and second at Stamford Bridge, N’Golo Kante catching out the Spurs goalie with his shot and Eden Hazard finishing off a great move before half-time. But Fernando Llorente headed in for Tottenham soon after the interval and with neither side taking chances after that and with no extra-time or away goals rule in that year’s semi-finals, it was on to penalties.

Chelsea were spot on, with Willian, Cesar Azpilicueta, Jorginho and David Luiz scoring the four we took. Eric Dier sent one of Spurs’ into the stand so when Kepa kept out Lucas Moura’s, the celebrations around our Spanish keeper that have become so pleasingly familiar after shoot-outs began, although we would not be so fortunate with penalties when we took on Man City in that season’s final.

Chelsea double-headers against Tottenham – it’s been quite a tale so far. Let the next chapter begin! 

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