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Stein Sees Off Spurs In Seven Goal Thriller

There have been plenty of cracking games at Stamford Bridge against Tottenham Hotspur over the years, but one of the most exciting came 30 years ago, in February 1994.

Ossie Ardiles’ Spurs went into the game on the back of six successive League defeats, the worst League run in their history.

Chelsea player-manager Glenn Hoddle’s most in-form player was striker Mark Stein, who cost £1.5m from Stoke City the previous October. He took time to settle and failed to score for two months, finally opening his account in a Boxing Day defeat at Southampton which left the side with two points from the last eleven games and in 21st place. Stein then proceeded to score in seven successive Premier League games, a remarkable individual performance, as the side slowly climbed up the table, and they had lost just two games in thirteen when they faced Tottenham. However, they had not actually won a league game for nearly two months, though they were progressing nicely in the FA Cup, and were still in real trouble in 19th place, with Tottenham three places above them.

Hoddle’s side lined up:- Kharine; Clarke, Donaghy, Johnsen, Kjeldbjerg; Newton, Burley, Wise; Peacock, Stein, Spencer. Subs - Hitchcock, Hoddle, Hopkin. Gavin Peacock played just behind the striking partnership of Stein and John Spencer.

Tottenham stalwart Gary Mabbutt, who had suffered a horrendous cheekbone fracture in a collision with Wimbledon’s John Fashanu, had been out for three months but returned for the London derby. The match was moved to 16.30 on the Sunday, for Sky TV.

My memory is that the away support were in the East Upper, towards the North Stand, and there were amazingly few of them, in a paltry reported crowd of 19,398. Looking at match photos and footage, though, although some northern parts of the East Stand are near-empty, and the North Stand was being rebuilt, The Shed was packed and the West Stand seemed pretty full, so maybe the crowd was understated.

The early play belied the visitors dreadful form as they missed two early chances before taking a 2-0 lead amidst shambolic defending. Steve Sedgley put them ahead from a tight angle after 17 minutes and a minute later a completely unmarked Jason Dozzell headed home a Dean Austin cross to double the lead.

A rattled Chelsea regrouped and pulled one back on the half-hour through an unlikely source. Peacock made a run to the left-hand corner before beautifully putting in veteran left-back Mal Donaghy who cut inside and fired past Ian Walker via a deflection. Three minutes later centre-back Jakob Kjeldbjerg headed a Dennis Wise corner towards goal and the talismanic Stein spun superbly inside the six-yard box, despite there being seven Spurs players in his proximity, and volleyed home.

Just before the interval, Spencer netted the third, and his fourth in successive games, controlling a superb Dennis Wise through ball then lashing it into the top of Walker’s net, to complete a remarkable turnaround.

John Spencer celebrates his goal with Craig Burley

Even then, before the half-time whistle, Spurs could have had a penalty and Peacock had a shot tipped onto the bar by Walker. As the teams left the field, it was clear that both looked highly unstable at the back and it was a surely a matter of when, not if, another goal came.

Dmitri Kharine had to tip a deflected shot from substitute Andy Gray over the bar and it was no real surprise when the visitors equalised with 20 minutes to go. Chelsea conceded a penalty via a needless Erland Johnsen handball following a Darren Anderton corner, Gray slamming the ball past Kharine to draw Spurs level. A few minutes later, Spurs had another penalty after the keeper brought down Ronny Rosenthal, who had run in on goal from the centre circle after intercepting a loose Stein pass. Kharine could have been booked or even sent off. Neither happened and, to rub it in, the Russian proceeded to save Gray’s effort.

Kharine had to clear from Austin seconds later as an unbelievably open game continued to flow from end to end. Then in the last minute, when it looked like the two sides would have to settle for a draw, Peacock was brought down by Austin. With shades of Palmer, Jackson and Madueke against Everton, there was an argument between the returning Wise and the in-form Stein as to who should take it. The striker won and, with The Shed chanting ‘Steino,’ duly lashed home his twelfth goal in fourteen games, running to The Tea Bar at The Shed End, close to where we were stood, to celebrate with the exultant supporters.

Mark Stein and Eddie Newton celebrate the winner

Stein then celebrates with Wise

Hoddle, sensibly exercising game management by running the clock down in injury time, replaced Craig Burley with David Hopkin. The midfielder vocally challenged his removal to the manager as he left the pitch and Hoddle went beserk, grabbed him by the scruff of the neck, pulled him out of the dugout and sent him to the dressing room, shouting ‘don’t ever do that to me again.’ Burley later apologised, saying he was upset because it had happened the previous week as well, but it was a piece of errant stupidity that hardly portrayed the Scot as a thinking footballer or a team player. An early case of player petulance slightly overshadowing an important win.

Glenn Hoddle gives Burley a dressing down

Chelsea hung on to take a hugely welcome three points, to the massive relief of the jubilant support and the player-manager. The Daily Mirror called it ‘one of the most incredible games ever seen at Stamford Bridge’ and certainly it was an amazing encounter. The quality of defending by both sides was often dreadful, with soft goals aplenty, but it certainly made for a highly entertaining game. Match highlights can be seen here .

Stein ended the season with thirteen goals in eighteen League games, an early March injury having kept him out for two months. Chelsea finished fourteenth, a place and six points above Tottenham, but lost the FA Cup Final to Manchester United.

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