Beattie brings new life at death

Hoddle's scrappers steal last-minute win over his glamorous former charges
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The Independent Football

If there was one fixture that Glenn Hoddle did not want to lose, bearing in mind his team's forlorn form throughout October, it would have been this one. Against his former Premiership employers, now managed by a dapper and articulate Italian, and a team without an away win since April Fools' Day that had lost, after extra time, at Anfield only three days earlier, he simply had to guide Southampton to their first win in six attempts and only their second at home this season.

If there was one fixture that Glenn Hoddle did not want to lose, bearing in mind his team's forlorn form throughout October, it would have been this one. Against his former Premiership employers, now managed by a dapper and articulate Italian, and a team without an away win since April Fools' Day that had lost, after extra time, at Anfield only three days earlier, he simply had to guide Southampton to their first win in six attempts and only their second at home this season.

It was a test of his managerial pride and tactical nous, an examination of his football knowledge and man management in a classic chequebook version of David and Goliath.

Chelsea, pathetic and soft in the first half, but alive and determined in the second, urged on by some subtle moves from Claudio Ranieri, proved unpre-dictable, difficult opposition.

But, with only seconds to spare, Hoddle and Southampton passed with colours flying high, leaving Chelsea's confused collection of cosmopolitan stars to trudge home and reflect on a performance lacking the consistency needed for a team of higher ambitions.

That Hoddle could smile on a curious afternoon of heated confrontations, six bookings and topsy-turvy fortunes, was due to James Beattie's opportunism. His brawny Lancastrian striker slid home the first goal after three minutes, and thundered in an injury-time winner either side of long spells of purity by Chelsea and south coast bluster by the hosts.

"We deserved it. It was a test of character and James Beattie and Dean Richards epitomised our attitude ... I wish I got an extra point for wins against my old club," said Hoddle.

"It was a very strange game," said Ranieri. "Two very different halves." He was right. His defenders played as if they hardly knew each other. The recall of Frank Leboeuf in central defence for the rested Marcel Desailly, suffering a hamstring twinge, was one of four changes. His posing and posturing apart, the Frenchman collected a caution for a foul on Matthew Oakley, passed poorly and was lucky not to concede a penalty after a loose tackle on Marian Pahars. Chelsea were unimpressive, especially in the first half, when the defence was undone with ease by the quick Southampton runners.

After the interval it was a different story. Chelsea, now revitalised, organised and producing more width, recovered from 2-0 down to draw level before Beattie drove in the winner as all around stood and admired. Why Ranieri decided to send on two substitutes after Dennis Wise had fouled Pahars, just before the kick, was not explained, but clearly the defence was bemused and chaotic.

"It was fate that he would score," said Ranieri. "But it was really an own goal as it deflected off one of my players' heads." The Italian praised his team for their wholehearted second-half effort. "If we played every game like that, we would only lose a few games."

Beattie, meeting a left-wing cross from Wayne Bridge with a running half-volley, had given Southampton the early confidence they needed. A spate of bookings preceded the second goal, Jo Tessem poking home from close range on 37 minutes, after a Bridge free-kick left the rearguard in embarrassing slapstick disarray as they slid and sliced in vain. As the abrasive Chris Marsden's outswinging left-foot drive rebounded off a post, Chelsea escaped going three down before the break.

The second-half transform-ation saw Chelsea as fluent and dominant as they were hapless earlier. Gustavo Poyet hit the bar from 20 yards, Wise scored at close range after the Urug-uayan's shot was blocked by Richards. Resurgent after a peripheral start, Poyet headed in at the far post after Gianfranco Zola outwitted Jason Dodd.

Southampton looked beaten, but dragged their way back. A Tessem header was cleared off the line by John Terry. Three minutes into injury time, Wise went in late on Pahars, the substitutes came on and Beattie scored with the élan once dem-onstrated at free-kicks by Hoddle. The relief was tangible.

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