Football: Aristocrats and artisans learn from each other

Chelsea 2 Sheffield Wednesday 2
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The Independent Online
Many believe the Premiership has become all front and no knickers, fancy foreign frills disguising an increasing poverty of quality, the all-beat- all formbook evidence of this new classless society.

They should have been at Stamford Bridge where Chelsea, all the way down in seventh place, gave further proof that what, in fact, is now coming into existence is a new, strong aristocracy.

While the English are learning new skills at the feet of the Italians, French, Slavs and Scandinavians, so they in turn are picking up some of our virtues and it was a tribute to Yorkshire grit when Dejan Stefanovic fired in an equaliser in injury time.

David Pleat, like the watching new Italian coach, Cesare Maldini, is full of enthusiasm for what Ruud Gullit is trying to achieve at Chelsea. "I enjoy Liverpool because the way they play is patient, passing, working; chess-like, not too direct. Chelsea are becoming like them, a very good team too," the Wednesday manager said.

The New Year will offer an immediate test of his view with Chelsea entertaining Liverpool on Wednesday. "The next few games, particularly that one, will tell us the truth about whether we can win the title or finish in the top two or three," Roberto Di Matteo, the Chelsea midfielder, said.

They would have been better placed if Wednesday, middle class in football terms, had not maintained their neatly conservative run which now stands at 11 games unbeaten, but with nine draws.

Pleat decided not to man-mark Gianfranco Zola from the start with Peter Atherton, despite advice from a well-meaning journalist. "I said `No, we've got another plan'," he said, then after a pause admitted: "It didn't work."

Zola punished him by tapping in the first after eight minutes from Hughes' cross and then returning the compliment by setting up the Welshman for a header 14 minutes later.

Maldini, who will watch Middlesbrough's Fabrizio Ravanelli at Arsenal on Wednesday, said he was content with Zola and Di Matteo but less so with Wednesday's Benito Carbone.

Goals: Zola (9) 1-0; Hughes (23) 2-0; Pembridge (23) 2-1; Stefanovic (90) 2-2.

Chelsea (3-5-1-1): Grodas; Gullit, Clarke, Duberry; Petrescu, Di Matteo, Newton (Wise, 70), Burley, Phelan; Zola; Hughes. Substitutes not used: Leboeuf, Vialli, Hitchcock (gk), Sinclair.

Sheffield Wednesday (3-5-2): Pressman; Atherton, Stefanovic, Walker; Nicol (Oakes, 57), Pembridge, Whittingham, Carbone (Blinker, 73), Nolan; Booth, Humphreys (Donaldson, 80). Substitutes not used: Trustfull, Clarke (gk).

Referee: P A Durkin (Portland).

Man of the match: Zola.

Attendance: 27,467.

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