Football: Blackburn buck the system

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The Independent Online
Chelsea. . . . . . . 1

Blackburn Rovers. . .2

AT LEAST the new player-manager and his team were as one on the opening day. Both Glenn Hoddle and Chelsea had their moments when it all slotted neatly into place but they were too infrequent for lasting satisfaction and success, and by the end they were joined in the same vain search for new ideas and a second wind.

Same old Chelsea then, promising much only to fall short? That is the cynical response. Hoddle's record as a manager suggests things will be different.

A new start in every sense found the roads around Stamford Bridge heavy in numbers and expectation. Long forgotten were the days when the Shed Enders derided Tottenham's No 10 with chants of 'Glenda' and worse. He is one of them now and wears their No 20, which reflects the doubling of his workload since leaving White Hart Lane; operating now on both sides of the white line.

Those same fans had read about the 'system' and were impatient to see it in a true, competitive environment. But Hoddle has preached patience as well as style and we know why. It is not so much that the system needs time to bed down, more that the architect needs to surround himself with a team who can translate it into victories. He will be hoping that the Danish international defender Jakob Kjeldbjerg will make them more watertight starting at Wimbledon tomorrow.

It was also unfortunate on day one to confront a Blackburn side eager to confirm the favourable impressions of last time and possessing sufficient tactical nous to buck the system. Having seen Hoddle open up both flanks in the first 20 minutes with immaculate distribution from his sweeper position, Kenny Dalglish ordered that he be quickly closed down, forcing errors, with runners guaranteed to test his defensive competence sent into those areas.

Blackburn equalised when Graeme Le Saux floated a ball beyond Hoddle and in place for Stuart Ripley to cushion and kill. Only then did Dalglish's team - whose first-half profligacy made it impossible to view the recuperating Alan Shearer on the touchline and not picture a different outcome - wake up to the reality that the points were theirs for the taking.

And yet when the debutant Gavin Peacock had instigated and finished the move that put Chelsea ahead, Hoddle must have believed the ball was rolling. 'The most disappointing and surprising thing was that when we went ahead we lost the reins of the game,' said this managerial innovator, who despite a marathon soak in the bath afterwards insisted the pace of the game was little different to what he had experienced with Swindon in the First Division.

Goals: Peacock (48) 1-0; Ripley (63) 1-1; Newell (79) 1-2.

Chelsea (1-2-3-2-2): Kharine; Hoddle; Sinclair, Johnsen; Clarke, Donaghy, Dow (Lee, 82); Wise, Peacock; Spencer (Fleck, 71), Cascarino. Substitute not used: Hitchcock (gk).

Blackburn Rovers (4-4-2): Mimms; May (Berg, 88), Marker, Moran, Le Saux; Ripley, Sherwood, Atkins, Wilcox; Newell, Gallacher. Substitutes not used: Talia (gk), Andersson.

Referee: A Gunn (Sussex).

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