Chelsea draw breathing space

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The Independent Online
A WIN followed by a draw. Good news for Chelsea, but they are still far from diverting attention from the bizarre power struggles that get them more publicity than their football. Yesterday the decision of their chairman, Ken Bates, to stay away as he recuperates from illness could only be seen as wise intuition.

Put up or shut up demands by Bates to fellow director Matthew Harding. Rumours of Glenn Hoddle being headhunted. Injuries to 10 players including Ruud Gullit. And only one win in five games. If it were all scripted for a Chelsea-based soap, you would have to say the writer was getting carried away.As the American tourist who took a wrong turn at Knightsbridge remarked: "Stamford Bridge? Wasn't there some battle there?" Well, yes - sort of. Bates was still sniping at Harding in yesterday's programme, accusing him of eroding Hoddle's position.

Hoddle knew that above all Chelsea had to control Teddy Sheringham whose seventh-minute header from Ruel Fox grazed the far post. But Chelsea's Mark Hughes quickly made similar advances on the Spurs goal, although it was Eddie Newton who missed their most inviting chance, rapping the bar when he had time to take better aim. Fox's arrival has improved Spurs' balance, and here his persistent attacks on the right gave them the opportunity to take a hold. But the chances he made went unfulfilled, especially by Ronny Rosenthal who should have penalised Michael Duberry for losing control of the winger's cross but thrashed at his shot, as did Chris Armstrong from another Fox pass.

In a match always more competitive than attractive, Spurs linked together more interestingly but were often aided by untidy control among Chelsea's midfield and defence. Fox continued to torment them and joined by the overlapping Dean Austin made what seemed like a permanent channel on the right.

Much of Chelsea's best play was created by Dan Petrescu but it so rarely had a sharp edge in the last third of the field that Ian Walker spent much of his game in gentle catching practice from weak shots that came at him from outside the Spurs penalty area.

If Chelsea's finishing was desultory, Tottenham's was hardly deserving of a win that in all other respects they merited. Occasionally Spurs dissected the Chelsea defence almost disdainfully. One delightful long pass from Jason Dozzell dropped on Fox's waiting instep, yet when the cross came Chris Armstrong could only slice it wide. That summed up all that had gone before, as did an untidy snatching at the ball by, of all people, Petrescu when he too had a clear chance eight yards out.

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