LONDON — Guus Hiddink revealed that Leicester City manager Claudio Ranieri phoned to thank him after Chelsea came from two goals down to end Tottenham Hotspur’s Premier League title challenge at Stamford Bridge.
Goals from Harry Kane and Son Heung-min in a frantic first half gave Spurs hope of a first victory at the home of their bitter rivals in 26 years, but Gary Cahill and substitute Eden Hazard struck after the break to complete a stirring Chelsea fightback in a match marred by numerous physical altercations.
The 2-2 draw ensured that Leicester sealed a stunning first Premier League title win with two matches to play, and after the match Hiddink said that an emotional Ranieri was quick to get in touch and pay tribute to the efforts of his former club.
“Just after the final whistle, a few minutes after the ‘judo’ [the mass brawl at full time], I got a call from Ranieri,” Hiddink revealed. “He called and thanked us for what we did in the second half, and I congratulated him for being champion.
“I didn’t see any tears because it wasn’t a FaceTime conversation, but his voice was trembling a bit. He didn’t say much — ‘Thanks’ five times.
“Leicester deserve it. It might not be a surprise anymore but it’s a shock for the established clubs that they did so well. You can be top by surprise after half a season, but they didn’t implode. There was no tension when they started to smell the title and that’s why I think they deserve it.”
Amid a hotly contested battle, temperatures on both sides boiled over following Hazard’s 83rd-minute equaliser. Tottenham finished the match with nine players booked, while both Mousa Dembele and Erik Lamela may face retrospective action from the Football Association for appearing to scratch Diego Costa and stamp on the hand of Cesc Fabregas respectively.
The game also featured numerous mass brawls, the last of which saw Hiddink attempting to act as peacemaker by shepherding Fabregas down the tunnel as players and coaches from both teams squared up moments after the final whistle.
“At the end there was high emotion, a bit of verbal animosity and I tried to come in between and protect [my players] a bit and go to the locker room,” Hiddink explained. “Then everyone started pushing a bit and dancing around. We shuffled a bit on the benches.
“For them there was a lot at stake. For us there was prestige at stake, and of course there’s always this rivalry between the clubs that makes it very hot. I must look calmly and see all the incidents before I give a judgement. We were also tight and it was an emotional game between two big clubs.
“I didn’t talk about [the Dembele incident] with Costa but there were some scratches left in his neck. But we’re not the most beautiful boys. It’s just a fight. There’s frustration, a lot at stake, losing a championship.”