Football: Hoddle calms nervy Chelsea

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The Independent Online
Chelsea. . . . .2

Sinclair 43, Furlong 75

Norwich City. . 0

Attendance: 23,098

IT SEEMED comfortable enough at the finish but there was not a difference of two goals between the sides, who can both look forward to a safe if predictable middle-of-the- Premiership status.

Chelsea were living on their nerves for most of the game and it took the arrival of their manager Glenn Hoddle, stripped for action, and the debutant Paul Furlong, who scored 13 minutes from time, to still the jitters.

Both sides paraded expensive new signings but it was the cheapest of them, John Newsome, at a cost to Norwich of pounds 1m from Leeds, who looked the bargain buy during the first half. His immediate opponent, Furlong, cost pounds 2.3m and with it earned the tag of being Chelsea's most expensive acquisition. But he was well and truly subjugated in the first period.

Both he and Neil Shipperley had grounds for complaining about the quality of their service, though. Dennis Wise and David Rocastle wove some pretty patterns in midfield, but only Nigel Spackman seemed to grasp the importance of delivering the ball into areas where the maximum damage can be done.

Ian Crook gave them an object lesson after only five minutes when he let fly a 30-yarder that missed Dmitri Kharine's left-hand post by inches.

And 15 minutes later Crook's immaculate 40-yard pass saw Efan Ekoku leave Jakob Kjeldbjerg for dead only to miscue his shot into the side netting.

Chelsea began slowly to increase the pressure, and it paid off two minutes from the interval when the energetic Frank Sinclair pounced on a John Polston clearance to smack the opener firmly past Bryan Gunn.

Norwich's substitution of Rob Newman with Neil Adams eight minutes into the second half added width to the visitors' attack, but Chelsea's pair of Scandinavian monoliths at the heart of their defence were able to deal with the flow of crosses from the substitute.

Two sublime passes from Crook - to Robins and Goss - were reminders of how dangerously Chelsea were living, but the 65th-minute arrival of Hoddle in place of Shipperley steadied his troops. It took a bit of old-fashioned barging by Gavin Peacock to bring the decisive goal in the 77th minute.

The Chelsea striker got the better of Carl Bradshaw in a bout of arm-wrestling and lobbed the ball into the path of Furlong, to make the ex-Watford man's debut a dream one.

(Photograph omitted)

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