Why Wembley, why Spurs?
I’ve been to Wembley a few times, but only to see England friendlies and one-sided qualifiers. Every season I dream of watching my club play a major final at the National Stadium. These dreams have usually faded and died, however, before the start of Spring. Watching this eagerly awaited London derby might just be the closest I get to witnessing a Wembley showpiece.
Tickets were easy to get as my dad, who has recently moved to London, got a Tottenham membership with the hope of seeing some regular, decent football. Tickets were limited to members, and fans with a purchase history as the game was considered to have a high risk of trouble.
Getting seats at Spurs this season should be fairly straightforward as it looks like most, if not all games, will go to general sale. The majority also won’t be classified as ‘high risk’. This is great for groundhoppers, or fans that just want to see a ‘top-6’ team play live.
So, what was seeing a Premier League game at Wembley like?
Competition: Premier League
Programme: None available
Star player: Marcos Alonso
Getting to Wembley
Driving to Wembley isn’t really an option, but there are three stations within walking distance of the stadium. Wembley Central is a long walk and Wembley Park can get very busy, so we opted for Wembley Stadium station. It can be reached via a 10 minute train from Marylebone. These trains aren’t too busy as they run regularly on match days.
We stopped to wet our whistles at a Spurs pub near Marylebone called the Alsop Arms. The pub was for Spurs ticket holders only, and it had a good atmosphere without being overly rowdy. Chelsea fans seemed to be gathering at the Globe pub opposite Baker Street. Both sets of fans helped create a lively atmosphere on the train.
The Wembley Experience
The club had advised supporters to arrive early to avoid queues while entering the stadium. All of the electronic turnstiles were crowded, but the lines moved quickly and we were through in less than five minutes. We negotiated the novelty of the Wembley escalators, to our seats in the upper tier. We made our seats with plenty of time to spare before kick-off.
Food and drink is generally overpriced and not that great inside Wembley, so we didn’t give much thought to braving the queues on the concourse area. Unfortunately, all of the programmes had sold out which was a little disappointing. Spurs offer an online version, but it would have been nice to have a keepsake from Wembley’s first Premier League game.
Each seat was provided with a free flag. This created good spectacle during the final minutes before kick-off as 70,000 flags turned the stadium white and navy. The atmosphere during the game was fairly up and down. The loudest parts were often initiated by the lively Chelsea section. The thumping drum sound that was played, far too often, to spur on the home fans raised some eyebrows. It worked on the first couple of occasions, but it soon became a source of much amusement in the away section.
Chelsea were missing a few key players, through injuries and suspensions, and gave full debuts to a couple of new signings. From the start they looked well organised and prepared to allow Spurs to have a lot of possession. The visitors looked dangerous on the break and Morata missed a great chance early on.
Spurs had a lot of the ball but struggled to create too many clear chances. Mid-way through the first half the home side gave away a free-kick, on the edge of their own penalty area, and Alonso curled it into the top-corner. Spurs continued to monopolise possession, but they couldn’t break through Chelsea’s organised defence. Kane had the best chance to level the scores as he typically made space in the box and curled the ball round the defender towards the bottom corner. Less typically the ball didn’t end up in the back of the net and hit the post.
The second half started in a similar vein to the first but with less clear cut chances. Chelsea continued to defend brilliantly and Kante, as usual, seemed to be on his own private mission to cover every blade of Wembley Stadium grass. The visitors brought on Batshuayi for Morata, but with 8 minutes left the striker headed into his own net to bring Tottenham level.
Spurs pushed for the winner, but Chelsea suddenly seemed even more dangerous on the counter attack. Alonso struck again with two minutes to go, beating Lloris at his near post. The visitors successfully saw out the final few minutes for their first win of the season. Spurs played well in defeat but came up against some strong, organised resistance.