Football: Hard work for Hoddle

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

Blackburn Rovers. . . . . . . . . . . . . .2

YOU could not help but notice the air of expectancy at Stamford Bridge yesterday. Every August Chelsea are saying that this is their year, but with the revered Glenn Hoddle in office and with the Makita Trophy in the bag, the annual statement seemed less than wishful thinking.

The guarantee of style, if not success, had drawn a crowd of 29,189 to the occasion. Yet ultimately they saw Chelsea's much- heralded possession game out- muscled and tussled by by the more direct Blackburn.

No surprises who set the Chelsea game rolling. From the kick- off, it was straight back to the manager who let fly a 40-yarder precisely into the path of John Spencer. Indeed, in the opening exchanges, every Chelsea move played through Hoddle's feet, his team-mates always looking for him, sometimes with unconfident urgency, but for 20 minutes stringing together a delightful display of possession football.

For all its brevity, this was the Hoddle era delivering all it promised. In Gavin Peacock, his excellent new signing, and Dennis Wise, a graduate of the kick-and- rush school suddenly turned arch distributor, Hoddle found two natural colluders to his game plan, and with Frank Sinclair and Erland Johnsen he formed a composed defensive triumvirate.

However, with both Chelsea wing-backs frequently neglecting their latter role, the five-man defence was reduced to three, and was thrice caught square.

First through was Kevin Gallacher, who found himself in so much space that the Chelsea defence did not even bother to retreat, but who under-kicked an attempted chip straight into the hands of Dimitri Kharine. Next was Mike Newell, found in space by Graeme Le Saux, who blasted over, and Newell again totally floored the opposition defence in the second half but to no avail.

Twice in the first half Chelsea's approach tempted near-fatal errors from a panicking Blackburn - once Bobby Mimms spilled a cross in front of goal, once David May backheaded past Mimms almost into the goal - but the occasional deconstruction of Chelsea's own defence took some gloss off the shiny new outfit.

The Blues went ahead early in the second half when Peacock capped his debut by heading Wise's cross past Mimms, but Blackburn's combination of pace and power had Chelsea increasingly on the defensive.

By this time Blackburn had equalised when Stuart Ripley, whose speed had the perpetual beating of Chelsea's left flank, tapped in a cross from Jason Wilcox. Eleven minutes from time Ripley again outpaced his marker, crossed perfectly, and Kharine could only deflect the ball to Newell for an easy finish.

With the magic of the Makita over, Hoddle has a long hard season ahead of him.

Chelsea (4-1-3-2): D Kharine; S Clarke, F Sinclair, E Johnsen, A Dow (D Lee, 81 min); G Hoddle; G Peacock, D Wise, M Donaghy; T Cascarino, J Spencer (R Fleck, 70 min). Sub not used: K Hitchcock (gk). Player-manager: G Hoddle.

Blackburn (4-4-2): D Mimms; D May (H Berg, 88 min), N Marker, K Moran, G Le Saux; T Sherwood, M Atkins, S Ripley, J Wilcox; M Newell, K Gallacher. Subs not used: F Talia (gk), P Andersson. Manager: K Dalglish.

Referee: A Gunn (South Chailey).

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

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