Tottenham Hotspur could have won at Chelsea if it was not for the performance of referee Mark Clattenburg, according to retired official Graham Poll. The game at Stamford Bridge, which finished 2-2 and confirmed Leicester City as the new Premier League champions, was marred by a series of flashpoints that are likely to lead to players being charged by the FA.
Poll thinks Clattenburg should have been stronger in the opening stages of the game, feeling he allowed the match to get out of his control. Despite his early leniency, Tottenham became the first team in Premier League history to pick up nine yellow cards in a single game, while Chelsea were also awarded three bookings in a bad-tempered encounter.
"Sometimes it is the early card and strong officiating that results in an open-flowing game where players get on with the game. This was just such a game," Poll wrote in the Daily Mail. "Whilst it may read as being very critical I can empathise with the Geordie referee, who is enjoying his most successful season of his career.
"The end of his season mirrors mine back in 2000; refereeing a Champions League semi-final, the FA Cup final and going to the European Championship finals in June.
"At such times a referee can feel 'invincible' and able to control games with personality and presence. There is a misguided feeling that the players appreciate how well you are officiating and will respect your approach."
Poll thinks Clattenburg should have recognised the tension that existed between the Spurs and Chelsea players early on and refereed the match accordingly. "It is wrong to enter every game with the same approach; keep the cards in your pocket for the first 20 minutes or so, possibly caution one or two before half-time if your control is threatened and coast through chatting whenever possible," he said.
"I recall the Arsenal vs Manchester United game back in 2005 when a scuffle in the tunnel between Roy Keane and Patrick Vieira made me change my 'game plan' dramatically. I knew that my authority was in question and so closed the game down in the first 10 minutes, not allowing tempers to rise by controlling the tempo of the game.
"Watching the game live on Monday it was clear that the players were not responding to the chatty, over-tolerant approach from Clattenburg and merely took advantage of the situation."