Football: Di Matteo delight for Chelsea

Click to follow
The Independent Online
Wimbledon 0 Chelsea 2

This was ultimately an impressive flexing of Chelsea muscle. Not in the sense of aggression, but resources, and it can only augur well for their Premiership ambitions.

Ruud Gullit, their coach, omitted both his regular strikers, Gianfranco Zola and Mark Hughes and yet his side still won in a canter thanks to goals from Roberto Di Matteo - a replica of his FA Cup final special - and Dan Petrescu, which gave Chelsea their second away win in three days.

The decision to leave out Zola, the PFA's Footballer of the Year, as well as Hughes took the heat out of the really ticklish problem of choosing between the Welshman and last Sunday's barnstorming four-goal hero at Barnsley, Gianluca Vialli.

After all the nice things Gullit had said at the weekend about his old friend from Serie A he could hardly not pick him last night, but Gullit insisted that it was a case of horses for courses. He said: "You have to pick the team you think will win the game - I know Wimbledon thought I would play Zola."

The horses for courses theory does not hold water, though, since it was Hughes' two goals that helped Chelsea brush Wimbledon aside in last season's FA Cup semi-finals.

Perhaps the substitution of Hughes on the opening day of the season at Highfield Road was about more than just bringing on fresh legs. Whatever the reason, Chelsea's strength in depth is looking impressive.

The continue absence of Franck Leboeuf with a stomach upset also gave Gullit the opportunity to welcome back Michael Duberry for his first game since snapping an Achilles tendon in January. The manner in which he coped with the albeit rather toothless Dons can only inspire confidence that the Chelsea defence will suffer no more of the relapses they experienced at Coventry. Another clean sheet was almost as welcome as the victory - which took its time in coming.

After that, Chelsea got steadily more slick in their forward movement, but if Vialli, who was effectively shadowed throughout by Chris Perry, was to make any telling contribution it would have to be as a provider. Indeed, it was from his square ball that Di Matteo scored after 58 minutes, although the midfielder deserves credit for his economically-struck 30 yarder. Four minutes later and the Dons were done for, Petrescu clinically finishing a fine run and cross by Tore Andre Flo.

Wimbledon (3-5-2): Sullivan; Blackwell, Perry, McAllister; Ardley, Cunningham, Earle, Gayle, Kimble; Ekoku (Clarke, 71), Holdsworth (Euell, 71). Subtitutes not used: Hughes, Jupp, Heald (gk).

Chelsea (4-4-2): De Goey; Sinclair, Duberry, Clarke, Le Saux; Petrescu, Wise, Di Matteo, Poyet; Flo, Vialli. Subtitutes not used: Hughes, Myers, Nicholls, Zola, Hitchcock (gk).

Referee: M Bodenham (Looe).

Comments