Football: Francis' waiting game

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The Independent Online
Tottenham Hotspur 1 Chelsea 2

Despite the rumblings of discontent among the Tottenham diehards, it is difficult not to sympathise with Gerry Francis. Rarely can one club's season have been so ravaged by injury, and it is undoubtedly to their manager's credit that they are still in the top half of the table.

On Saturday the result was about right, and when Francis finally appeared in front of the press you could sense him squirming, initially. But it was not so much through guilt as persistent injustice. Having had all of his best players on the treatment table for lengthy spells, he went out and bought three new ones, but already two of them have broken down.

"I would like to be able to play against some of these teams with the real Tottenham, to be honest," said Francis, who really has no need to proclaim his honesty. "It's been very, very frustrating, to say the least.

"I might be looking at things with a smile sometimes, but inside I'm certainly disappointed that things have gone this way. But you've got to get on with it, and certainly the players that are playing have had a real go."

For the record, the players missing against Chelsea were: Mabbutt, Calderwood, Scales, Vega, Sheringham, Armstrong and Anderton, although Anderton came on in the second half and delivered the cross for David Howells to head his first goal of the season. That set up a final few minutes that were far more frantic for Chelsea than they should have been.

Until then Ruud Gullit's outfit had been very impressive. A goal after 50 seconds will help any team's cause, but after Sol Campbell had bundled Gianfranco Zola's free-kick past his own keeper, Chelsea were so much in command that Tottenham did not have a shot on goal until the 65th minute.

By then they were already two down following a perfect left-foot strike by Roberto Di Matteo from 30 yards that flew into the top corner past the despairing dive of Ian Walker. An equally good strike by Andy Sinton was saved spectacularly by Kevin Hitchcock just prior to Howells' goal and, after Scott Minto had hacked clear off his own goal-line in the final minute, again from Howells, Chelsea hung on.

Which was just as well for Gullit because it meant he did not have to justify leaving Gianluca Vialli on the bench again. But with all the talk about Vialli being left out, one Chelsea player, arguably better even than Vialli, has been almost forgotten - a Dutch international by the name of Gullit. For all their recent success, it is a pity the manager does not pick himself more often - as there is still no finer sight than Gullit in full flight.

Goals: Campbell (og 1) 0-1; Di Matteo (53) 2-0; Howells (83) 1- 2.

Tottenham Hotspur (5-3-2): Walker; Carr (Anderton, 55), Austin, Nethercott (Wilson, 80), Campbell, Edinburgh (Fox, 71); Nielsen, Howells, Sinton; Iversen, Allen. Substitutes not used: Rosenthal, Bardsen (gk).

Chelsea (5-3-2): Hitchcock; Petrescu, Sinclair, Leboeuf, Clarke, Minto; Di Matteo, Wise, Newton; Zola (Johnsen, 88), M Hughes. Substitutes not used: Myers, Vialli, P Hughes, Grodas (gk).

Referee: P Allcock (Surrey). Bookings: Tottenham Edinburgh, Anderton; Chelsea Sinclair, Newton, Minto.

Man of the match: Leboeuf. Attendance: 33,027.