Throwback Thursday: Tottenham vs Chelsea (December 6, 1997)

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There seems to be something about Chelsea that makes their rivalries so much more charged. If you look at their history with Arsenal or Liverpool, you’ll find years and years worth of acrimony, some of which is only tangentially related to the football. Chelsea’s rivalry with Tottenham is no different. Fans of both clubs despise each other, and that’s not going to change any time soon.

Spurs and Chelsea have had some memorable clashes in the Premier League era, but one in particular stands out. This week, we take a look back at their meeting in December, 1997.

You know the cliche “a game of two halves?” Most use it to refer to games in which one team dominates the first half while the other team takes control during the second. But it really refers to a game in which both halves are markedly different, and that can manifest in any number of ways.

The first half at White Hart Lane was a thrilling and, importantly, even contest. Both teams had excellent shots at goal, with the two keepers coming up with key saves. The action was back-and-forth, keeping both sets of fans on edge. It wasn’t until near the end of the half when the ball found the back of a net. Chelsea striker Tore Andre Flo tallied first in the 40th minute, leaving Chelsea confident they would take a lead into halftime. But just three minutes later, Ramon Vega leveled for the home side. Both teams went into the tunnel with a goal apiece, and on the strength of the first half it seemed like Act II would make for some explosive football.

It did, but it wasn’t anything resembling a contest.

The second half saw Spurs massacred by the Blues. Roberto Di Matteo restored the away side’s lead in the 48th minute, and Dan Petrescu extending it further with a brilliant touch. A few defensive errors, some further brilliance from Flo (who tallied a hat trick), and a creeping sense of despair in the home side would see Chelsea walk out of the Lane with a staggering 1-6 victory. The commentator described it as a dark day in Tottenham’s history, and that almost feels like an undersell. It would certainly be one of the heaviest home losses for Spurs in the Premier League era (at least until Liverpool came calling two years ago).

It was a difficult season for Tottenham all around. They spent much of the campaign in or around the relegation zone, ultimately managing to pull themselves out of it after re-signing Jürgen Klinsmann on loan. Chelsea, meanwhile, managed to stay in the title and Champions League conversation through the spring before ultimately finishing in fourth.

In recent years, Spurs v Chelsea has been anything but boring. You can check out the next meeting this Sunday when the defending champions travel to White Hart Lane. Kickoff is at 7am EST on NBC Sports Network.