Chelsea show off new self-belief

Sheffield Wednesday 0 Chelsea 2 Burley 28, Myers 83 Attendance : 30,983
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The Independent Online
Suddenly, soft-centred, showbizzy old Chelsea are demanding to be taken seriously. In ending Sheffield Wednesday's 100 per cent start to the season, the London club revealed at Hillsborough yesterday a solidity and backbone more in keeping with the northern achievers of the Premiership than their own tradition as flatterers and deceivers.

Wednesday's task now will be to avoid that description for themselves. They still lead the formative table but the suspicion that it will not be for much longer was confirmed in a match their fans must hope will not be symbolic of their season: bright beginning, patchy middle and an effort that petered out.

Chelsea, who move up to second, maintained their own unbeaten record and secured their third win with goals from Craig Burley and Andy Myers, absorbing pressure competently and hitting swiftly on the break for the classical away performance. If it was not always pleasing - it was largely professional - its execution was a response to the porousness they had shown in the 3-3 midweek draw at Arsenal, and due to several players carrying injuries.

"I was pleased with the way we defended; even Gianluca Vialli was coming back," Ruud Gullit said. "The spirit is there to win matches. You can't always play the beautiful game." As with all successful coaches, Chelsea's has a necessary pragmatism to go with his expansive instincts.

Chelsea's foreign legion may not have made the scoresheet but their influence was marked, nevertheless. After an uncertain start, clearly worried about a hip injury, Franck Leboeuf swept up masterfully at the back, and there was something distinctly Italian in the way Chelsea succeeded in slowing the game when necessary, and not averse to the odd tactical injury, either.

It all combined for a home frustration that looked unlikely as they began the game by passing the ball fluently. Regi Blinker, in particular, was a lively presence on the left wing and Ritchie Humphreys, the 18-year- old with three goals to his credit, typified the enthusiasm.

Gradually Chelsea drew the sting, however. Perversely, the loss of their goalkeeper, Dmitri Kharin, under challenge from Andy Booth, with a knee injury was of more benefit to them than Wednesday - Kevin Hitchcock was more confident under the high ball for Booth and David Hirst to be able to threaten.

Almost immediately, Dennis Wise sent Burley clear, only for Wayne Collins to scamper back and deflect his shot. Burley was not to be so wasteful again. Soon after, he robbed Dejan Stefanovic some 30 yards from the Wednesday goal and ran on to drive past Kevin Pressman.

Wednesday's response was strong on bludgeon but short on rapier. Hirst headed down but wide from Guy Whittingham's chip and Hitchcock flung himself to turn aside two more headers from Booth. Hitchcock also excelled himself in getting down to Hirst's header at the far post from Humphreys's corner. When Wednesday did find a ground-based way, Hirst was wastefully wide from the substitute John Sheridan's through ball.

They might also have had a late penalty, when Erland Johnsen's hand-ball was ruled outside the penalty box, but by then the damage was done. The developing Burley cut inside from the right, picked out Myers overlapping on the left and, after one touch, the wing back rifled home his shot for the second goal.

"There are great expectations from people on the periphery of this club," said the Wednesday manager, David Pleat. "Perhaps they will now understand after that performance that we will lose some, draw some and win some, but we will get better."

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