The Battle of Old Trafford, 29 April 1970

27 Feb 2024 10:46 am, by YorkshireSquare

The Battle of Old Trafford, the 1970 FA Cup Final replay between Leeds United and Chelsea, etched its place in history as one of the most physically demanding clashes on the English football pitch. The match, a culmination of a long and arduous season for Don Revie's Leeds, unfolded in dramatic fashion, leaving the Yorkshire club trophyless.

Old Trafford witnessed a clash more intense than the Wembley encounter, with both teams displaying unyielding determination. Despite Chelsea's attempts to stifle United's attacking prowess, the Yorkshire side maintained their class. The wounds from the European Cup exit against Celtic, which cost them Gary Sprake, were felt as David Harvey stepped in for the replay.

Referee, 47-year-old Eric Jennings from Stourbridge, presided over both games, allowing rough play by both sides to its fullest extent. In his last season as a Football League referee, Jennings played the advantage liberally, only brandishing a single yellow card to Chelsea's Ian Hutchinson. Reflecting on the match years later, modern-day referee David Elleray asserted that, in today's era, the sides would have seen six red cards and twenty yellow cards combined.

The unchanged Chelsea side found themselves under pressure early on, with Billy Bremner and Johnny Giles asserting control in midfield. Tommy Baldwin and Terry Cooper, known as two of the quieter figures in their respective teams, engaging in a fierce physical duel. Eddie Gray's mesmerizing dribbles left an impression, prompting a tactical switch that saw Ron Harris clashing with the talented Scotsman, leaving his mark (literally) early on. Mick Jones narrowly missed a chance from an Eddie Gray cross, setting the stage for a physically charged encounter.

The brutality continued to escalate, with Norman Hunter and Ian Hutchinson exchanging punches, and Eddie McCreadie executing a flying kick to the head of Leeds' captain Billy Bremner within his own penalty area. Johnny Giles joined the fray with a lunging challenge on a Chelsea opponent, adding to the mayhem on the pitch.

Tempers flared when Jones collided with Peter Bonetti, leaving the Chelsea goalkeeper in need of extended treatment. The Chelsea team protested vehemently, adding to the heated atmosphere. Despite the fierceness of the tackles, United maintained their shape, and a brilliant thirty-fifth minute goal from Mick Jones, orchestrated by Allan Clarke's mazy run, put them ahead.

As the tackles intensified, Chelsea lost composure temporarily, but they showcased resilience. Charlie Cooke's precise delivery allowed Peter Osgood to equalize with a diving header twelve minutes from time, forcing the game into extra-time. Bremner's penalty appeal was denied, and the thrilling saga continued.

In the final period of extra-time, United remained dominant, but Chelsea, for the first time in two hundred and twenty-four minutes, seized the lead. Ian Hutchinson's long throw-in set the stage for David Webb's close-range header, securing Chelsea's triumph. Despite a valiant last push from United, with substitutes and defensive reinforcements coming in, Chelsea held on frantically to snatch the Cup from their grasp, leaving the Yorkshire side empty-handed after a season of near misses.

The shell-shocked United players, despite their superb play throughout the season, faced the bitter disappointment of defeat. Chelsea's John Dempsey offered words of condolence, acknowledging the pain of Leeds and emphasizing the hope for a new season in August. United, once they processed the setback, vowed to return, and those words proved prophetic.