FOOTBALL: TRUE BRITS OUTDO GULLIT

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The Independent Online
MIKE ROWBOTTOM

Chelsea 1 West Ham United 2

Ruud Gullit was fully entitled to a sad shake of his dreadlocked head as he paced off the field. The Chelsea fans, meanwhile, were in turmoil: uplifted by their Dutchman's gorgeous contribution to the match, downcast by the manner of their team's late capitulation.

Chelsea's aspirations - heightened by the dismissal of Newcastle from the FA Cup and their annihilation of Middlesbrough - now have the appearance of wishful thinking after successive defeats. For Total Football, read Partial Football. But the good bits are still very good.

"We played well whenever we had the ball," the Chelsea manager, Glenn Hoddle, said. "But we just didn't want to work on the other side when they had possession. I don't think the players here realise the kind of consistency which was expected over the years from the Tottenham side I played for. I'm sure Ruud had the same kind of expectation at Milan."

Gullit was a profound influence throughout, switching the ball around with disdainful ease, accelerating with some of his old conviction. At times, the fluency of the home side's passing threatened to humiliate their visitors. However, having taken a 10th-minute lead, they neglected to confirm their superiority with further goals.

Shortly before half-time, first Dennis Wise and then Gavin Peacock wasted opportunities when clean through. West Ham, whose morale held even in desperation, made the home side pay. For all the European influences at work, however, this match was decided by two very British interventions. Julian Dicks (born: Bristol) equalised with a thumping far-post header from Dani's 62nd-minute corner, and an exuberant drive from Danny Williamson (born: Newham) earned all three points 10 minutes later.

Dicks now has a pre-match ritual: before kick-off, his manager, Harry Redknapp, reminds him that he is only one booking away from suspension, and he takes to the field with the words "I need you playing" ringing in his ears. He has lasted nine matches so far, and West Ham will hope fervently that he can keep his temper. Although his contribution on Saturday was a world away from that of Gullit's, it was - finally - no less important.

Chelsea meanwhile, will be seeking similar commitment from a playing squad that will be without Eddie Newton - who broke his shin in a fifth- minute collision with his keeper - until the end of the season.

Goals: Peacock (9) 1-0; Dicks (62) 1-1; Williamson (72) 1-2.

Chelsea (3-5-2): Hitchcock; Clarke, Lee, Duberry; Petrescu, Wise, Gullit, Newton (Sinclair, 5), Phelan; Furlong, Peacock. Substitutes not used: Izzet, Kharin (gk).

West Ham United (3-5-2): Miklosko; Bilic, Rieper, Dicks; Potts, Hughes, Bishop, Williamson, Rowland; Dani (Cottee, 65), Dowie. Substitutes not used: Harkes, Sealey (gk).

Referee: G Willard (Worthing).

Bookings: West Ham United: Bilic, Hughes.

Man of the match: Gullit.

Attendance: 25,252.

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