An occasion that had brimmed with promise at the outset duly delivered. The sight of Thomas Tuchel sprinting 50 yards down the touchline to celebrate Reece James’ goal, nine minutes after Pierre-Emile Højbjerg’s equaliser had almost seen him come come to blows with Antonio Conte, seemed to have set a raucous tone for the Todd Boehly era. But that was nothing: deep into added time it was a wild-eyed Conte who could hail Harry Kane’s point-saver and there was more to come. At full time the managers clashed again, resulting in a red card for both, and Kalidou Koulibaly’s opening goal seemed several worlds away. Everybody present appeared to have taken leave of their senses: these were utterly extraordinary scenes and both men can expect a hauling over hot coals when the Premier League sit down to review what passed.
“Welcome to the house of fun, Todd and Co” read a banner draped from the top tier of the Shed end. The artists of the Matthew Harding stand directly opposite went one better, or at least several times more effusive: they passed a huge likeness of Boehly from one side to the other, as if formally anointing an idol.
Boehly and his disciples were all beaming within 19 minutes. If the action was scratchy the touchline spectacle was, even at that point, a reliably entertaining watch: Tuchel and Conte were never going to let the oppressive heat bother them and the former reacted explosively when, after a promising break, Kai Havertz checked back and killed the move’s momentum. But it was Havertz who contributed indirectly to the opener, running onto a backheel from Raheem Sterling and watching Hugo Lloris direct his angled effort wide.
The resulting left-sided corner, sent in by Marc Cucurella, sailed above the heads of the jostling horde. Koulibaly, though, had read it perfectly: his volley, at an awkward height and with relatively late sight of the ball, was wonderfully controlled, thrashed inside the near post to give Lloris no chance.
Koulibaly had only just had a pop from range and would soon unsuccessfully attempt a far more difficult volleyed effort. That preceded a drinks break in which Tuchel, brandishing a magnetic white board, held his charges’ attention with a brief tactical explication using red and blue counters.
Tottenham seemed more in need of the lesson. They had begun slightly the better but faded, Chelsea swarming around Kane and Son Heung-min whenever either appeared in danger of taking possession in a tricky area. The home side were full of running and, to Conte’s evident disgust, Spurs could hardly have been more flat. They had a chance to equalise shortly after going behind, Ryan Sessegnon running onto a long pass that caught the defence square, but Édouard Mendy was able to block.
That apart, the intent and vigour came from Chelsea. N’Golo Kanté was back to the levels that effectively give them an extra player or two; Sterling was sharp and clever; Mason Mount was diligent and alert, although he could have done better than shoot over after creating a yard of space.
There was little immediate reaction from Tottenham after the restart. Ruben Loftus-Cheek, impressing at right wing-back, sent Højbjerg bouncing off him; Mount overhit a deep cross and forced Lloris to tip over. By the 57th minute Conte had seen enough and deployed Richarlison in place of Sessegnon.
Whether or not through force of attacking numbers, Kane should have equalised within minutes. Chelsea were still ruing a miss from Sterling, who blazed off target after a fine run from Loftus-Cheek, when a slide-rule pass from Højbjerg sent Kane in behind. From 15 yards, he shot wide of Mendy’s near post; it looked a costly error but Spurs would swiftly correct it.
The goal itself was struck low by Højbjerg, via a snick off Koulibaly, across Mendy from 20 yards after Son had teed him up. Of just as much note, though, were the events that sandwiched it. Chelsea were still fuming at a clear foul by Rodrigo Bentancur on Havertz half a minute previously, ignored by Anthony Taylor, that had allowed Spurs to attack; amid Conte’s usual full-throttle goal celebrations, the managers briefly clashed as tempers erupted. For a second they were face to face, veins bulging and throats bawling, until backroom staff intervened. A wider-scale skirmish resulted but simmered down soon enough; Conte and Tuchel were both booked, along with two of their coaches. This was the pandemonium that had been promised.
Soon there was more. Tottenham might have been fancied to push on but escaped when Havertz missed a sitter from James’ cross. No matter: when Dejan Kulusevski lost possession, the ball was quickly played to an open James via Kanté and Sterling. He finished first time; Tuchel set off to join in the revelry without even a glance at his opposite number, but Kane’s flicked header from a corner at the very end led to a staggering revival of hostilities.