Feet flying, and cards too - When Leeds United and Chelsea revisited the 1970s in 'Battle of the Bridge'

REFEREE Michael Oliver says there should have been 11 red cards and 16 bookings in the 1970 FA Cup final replay between Chelsea and Leeds.

Saturday, 5th December 2020, 11:45 am

Oliver cast his verdict in a recent feature run by The Telegraph with the official casting a modern-day verdict on a clash in which just one solitary was brandished.

Even with the Leeds and Chelsea rivalry still in its infancy at the end of the 60s, ill-tempered games between the duo were nothing new.

And while not quite producing 11 reds and 17 yellows, cards were certainly not in short supply as the Whites took on the Blues at Stamford Bridge in December 1997 as Leeds showed the fighting spirit of the recently-passed Whites legend Billy Bremner to hold on for a point with nine men.

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MAKING THEIR POINT: Leeds United applaud the visiting support after surviving an entire half with nine men to leave the 'Battle of the Bridge' against Chelsea of December 1997 with a 0-0 draw. Picture by Mark Bickerdike.

Ruud Gullit’s Chelsea side approached the contest in second spot with five wins from their previous six games whereas George Graham’s Whites lined up in London in fifth having won four of their last five.

The game was preceded by a minute’s silence held in memory of Bremner and the contest then began at a frenetic pace with tackles flying in from the early stages.

Gary Kelly was handed a very early booking by referee Graham Poll for not retreating 10 yards at a Blues corner and Lucas Radebe was shown a yellow for flying into Gianfranco Zola from behind. Poll was then reaching into his pocket again to book both

Alf-Inge Haaland and Roberto Di Matteo following scuffling in the Blues box. Bruno Ribeiro somehow escaped a card despite slicing down Dennis Wise for what today might have been a red.

But a flying tackle from Michael Duberry on Haaland sparked bedlam with Haaland picking himself up to go in on Dennis Wise and a mass melee ensued.

“This is like Chelsea versus Leeds revisited,” said commentator John Motson. “It’s just the 1970s here for a moment. Feet flying all over the place.”

But the cards were flying too and Poll opted to hand Haaland a second yellow and an early bath with Wise also booked in the dust-up.

There were 20 free-kicks in the first half-hour and more trouble ensued as Ribiero went in late on Graeme Le Saux and was booked.

In actual football, Wise then fired just wide from 25 yards out before another yellow followed for Mark Nicholls after his late tackle on Garry Kelly.

Yet Kelly himself was then shown a card for the second time in first-half stoppage time for chopping down Frank Leboeuf and Leeds were down to nine men with Kelly already running off the pitch knowing a red card was imminent as Poll went to his pocket.

“Welcome to the 1970s revisited,” quipped Motson. “Ugly scenes at Stamford Bridge between Chelsea and Leeds.

"With great respect to their reputations you would think it was Norman Hunter and “Chopper” Harris all over again here.”

The first half had seen a booking every five minutes with four Whites players yellow carded and three Chelsea men cautioned in addition to United’s two reds.

Yet Leeds still had to survive another half with nine men and United were inches away from giving Chelsea the lead themselves when captain David Hopkin’s clearance from a corner flew just wide.

Tore Andre Flo then headed home from the following corner but Poll ruled the goal out for a foul and seconds later Flo flashed another header just wide.

But Leeds then threatened at the other end as Ribiero flashed a volley just over and with time running out Blues boss Gullit sent Duberry upfront.

It looked like proving a winning move as the centre back flew in to meet a cross but Nigel Martyn produced a fine save and that was that with nine-men Leeds managing to hold on for a goalless draw.

Remarkably, there were only seven fouls in the second half and not a single booking – but the first half more than made up for that.

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Thank you Laura Collins