Chelsea’s defensive collapse meant there were more than just 10,000 empty seats at Stamford Bridge by the final whistle

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ROMAN ABRAMOVICH is not the only unsavoury character being hit hard by sanctions that the Government imposed on Chelsea’s owner.

Turning from the westbound exit at Fulham Broadway Tube station, one thing struck you among the steady flow of fans heading for Stamford Bridge.

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Chelsea fans did their best to generate a good atmosphere for the London derbyCredit: AFP
Large areas of Stamford Bridge were vacant with ticket sales banned

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Large areas of Stamford Bridge were vacant with ticket sales bannedCredit: Jamie McPhilimey
Only Chelsea season ticket holders and Arsenal fans were allowed to attend

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Only Chelsea season ticket holders and Arsenal fans were allowed to attendCredit: Getty

There was not a single ticket tout.

The wide concrete walkway that funnels the crowd downwards and on to Fulham Road towards the stadium is the traditional hunting ground for shifty men flogging tickets at vastly inflated prices to those desperate to see the match.

But with last night’s game the first under new rules banning the sale of seats on a match-by-match basis, the black market was killed stone dead.

Chelsea have around 29,000 season-ticket holders and with 3,000-odd given to Arsenal, that left almost 10,000 empty seats in a stadium holding just below 42,000 when chock-a-block.

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It made for slim pickings for the spivs and also the people making a semi-honest living in the burger vans, flogging unofficial merchandise, in the pubs and even the guy taking up his usual spot selling the CFCUK fanzine.

Most of all, it hurt genuine Chelsea supporters who have done nobody any harm from watching their team take part in a cracking advert for English football.

Chelsea versus Arsenal is not the spikiest of London derbies.

The mood outside before kick-off was distinctly subdued but that is sometimes the case anyway with this fixture.

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It may be different when West Ham visit Sunday.

Arsenal fans wasted no time taunting about the splurges of empty spaces inside the ground.

Singing ‘There’s nobody here — it’s just like the old days’ was a pin-sharp way to remind Chelsea of the pre-Roman days before the glory-hunters and tourist fans arrived.

Blues boss Thomas Tuchel was caught on the hop, not realising the ground would be 25 per cent vacant.

But he urged the majority of the 32,249 who were allowed in to roar his team to victory.

It will take a minor disaster to budge Chelsea from third spot in the Premier League now.

Champions League football for next season is virtually assured and there is an FA Cup final to look forward to.

This game meant more to Arsenal after three defeats in a row. And the way they took the game to Tuchel’s team was the lighter fuel for an atmosphere inside Stamford Bridge that compared to any other big night.

Banning ticket sales at Chelsea is a baffling way to get at Abramovich as the club barely made a bean for him during 19 years in charge.

And it won’t be long before the Del Boys are back at Fulham Broadway fleecing fans either.

Chelsea’s defensive collapse and the injury-time penalty swept home by Bukayo Saka for 4-2 meant there were far more than 10,000 empty seats by the final whistle.





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