FOOTBALL: Gullit's Wise move pays off

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Leicester City 1 Chelsea 3

Just when it looked as if Chelsea's season was slipping away from them, manager Ruud Gullit jerked his side back on course with a half-time tactical master stroke that left Leicester - so justifiably confident after overwhelming their tepid opponents in the first half - pondering how much they still have to learn at this level.

The tactic displayed a side of the Dutchman's character that must have come as a surprise to those of us who rate him as one of the great footballers of his generation. Trailing to Julian Watts' goal that had arrived at the psychologically perfect moment a minute before half-time, Gullit predictably replaced 19- year-old Mark Nicholls with Gianluca Vialli for the second half - but his trump card was retiring Dennis Wise to make way for Eddie Newton, who had not played in the first team since breaking a leg in February.

The reason was obvious within minutes as enthusiastic Leicester, who had overwhelmed Chelsea in midfield in the first half, began to lose control of that vital area. Neil Lennon, Garry Parker and Muzzy Izzet suddenly found Newton snapping successfully at their heels and freeing Craig Burley and Roberto Di Matteo to do what they do best, going forward.

The transformation produced the equaliser from Vialli after only three minutes, took another 15 for Di Matteo to underline that this was to be Chelsea's day and was climaxed by Mark Hughes' first Premiership goal of the season.

Gullit maintained that he had doubts about Vialli being able to handle a full 90 minutes because of the Italian striker's struggle for fitness - "I'd not been able to train properly for three weeks," Vialli confessed.

With Franck Leboeuf still an object lesson to all Premiership defenders of how it can be done, the vital sparks that ignited those early season expectations are all now back in place.

Goals: Watts (44) 1-0; Vialli (48) 1-1; Di Matteo (64) 1-2; Hughes (1-3) 80.

Leicester City (3-5-2): Keller; Watts, Walsh, Prior; Grayson, Lennon, Izzet, Parker, Whitlow, Marshall, Heskey. Substitutes not used: Poole (gk), Hill, Robins, Lawrence, Lewis.

Chelsea (3-5-2): Hitchcock; Leboeuf, Clarke, Johnsen; Petrescu, Wise (Newton, h-t), Burley, Di Matteo, Myers; Hughes, Nicholls (Vialli, 45). Substitutes not used: Grodas (gk), Minto, Morris.

Referee: M Reed (Birmingham).

Bookings: Leicester: Watts. Chelsea: Leboeuf, Myers, Burley.

Man of the match: Newton.

Attendance: 20,766.

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