THERE WERE no goals for the crowd to get excited about but the joy on Dennis Wise's face indicated that he, at least, had had a nice old time of it. This was easy to understand since 27,259 people - a club record for such an occasion - rolled up to Stamford Bridge for his testimonial, celebrating nine years with Chelsea.
Wise laboured, like all the others, through a stifling afternoon punctuated by rumbles of thunder before being replaced and hugged, two minutes from the end, by his manager, Gianluca Vialli, and afterwards told the fans: "I have enjoyed every moment of my time here. I have another two years and hopefully we can bring back the title because you deserve it... We weren't far away last year and this season we know what we have to look for."
Chelsea's hopes of usurping Manchester United have been given a big boost by the pounds 3m signing of Didier Deschamps in midfield and a smaller impetus, on this evidence at least, with the arrival of the pounds 10m striker Chris Sutton. Of his new colleagues, Wise commented, "Chris is going to score goals while Didier is Didier basically, done everything, won everything, real quality."
The coincidence of this friendly affair was that the Italians fielded Nicola Ventola, whose name was persistently connected with Chelsea during the summer until the money was spent instead on Sutton. Ventola it was who carried an early threat to Chelsea and it needed an urgent intervention as the striker took aim to deflect the danger.
There have been mutterings that the arrival of Deschamps was a mercenary move, but the little Frenchman's every touch was stamped with authority and class. His control was instant and authoritative and the passes rarely failed to find another blue shirt.
Wise's every move - taking a throw-in or a corner - received a standing ovation from supporters waving banners bearing the legend "Dennis Wise - Forever Blue". Like some of the people he has tackled since signing for Ken Bates' club in May 1990. Graham Poll refereed tolerantly and wisely, once intervening smartly when he had to separate Wise and Jonathan Binotto and Graeme Le Saux moved in to add his pennyworth. "There were a few tackles flying about," said Wise. "The match was played at a proper tempo."
The nastiest of the tackles was perpetrated by Bia, who had been trailing Sutton to bruising effect. Albert Ferrer embarked on a surging run from defence but when he was brought down in full flight, Mr Poll's twirling of arms towards the Bologna bench indicated they should substitute Bia or he might have to reach for a card which the offence merited. Bia duly marched but Bologna hung on, in that familiar Italian fashion, blunting every Chelsea attempt. And when the defence was over-extended there was Gianluca Pagliuca showing why he won 39 caps in goal for Italy.
The afternoon almost received its perfect moment when Wise unleashed a cross shot, only to see it fly wide.
Chelsea: E De Goey; D Petrescu, F Leboeuf, M Desailly, D Deschamps, G Poyet, C Sutton, D Wise, G Le Saux, A Ferrer, G Zola. Substitutes used: J Hogh, R Di Matteo, T Flo, J Morris, C Babayaro, M Forssell, G Vialli.
Bologna: G Pagliuca; G Falcone, M Tarantino, K Ingesson, G Bia, M Paganin, G Signori, Eriberto, N Ventola, G Marocchi, J Binotto. Substitutes used: T Lucic, C Nervo, N Boselli, Ze Elias, J Mensah, F Ferrari.
Referee: G Poll (Tring).