Graham trumped at Bridge

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The Independent Online

George Graham has nothing to prove. He doesn't have to do this. Frankly, it's difficult to understand why he does.

George Graham has nothing to prove. He doesn't have to do this. Frankly, it's difficult to understand why he does.

As the minutes dragged dolefully towards the confirmation of a defeat which had seemed certain from midway through the first half, he emerged from the dug-out and flung his whole body and soul into reinvigorating his soggy, injury-weakened side.

Graham, who had been forced to field a team without half-a-dozen or more injured regulars, will have felt the driving rain seeping into his smart, blue mac. What's more, he will have felt the bile of the vocal element amongst his own club's supporters who simply have no time for him.

"Off back to Arsenal," was the most common cry. Still it seems, he will never be forgiven for his former allegiances, and to make matters worse, it was one of his former employees, Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink, whom Graham brought into English football at Leeds, who did most to contribute to his day's misery.

Nothing seems to be going for him at the moment. No Taricco, Campbell, Iversen, Rebrov, Armstrong, Leonhardsen or Thatcher. And no sympathy from the very people the fortunes of whose club he is trying to turn around. Experience enables him to be remarkably phlegmatic. To the disenchanted fans, his message is simple: "There's no quick fix, it doesn't matter who the manager is."

The mood of the day could have been entirely different. Spurs might easily have scored twice during the brief spell before they went behind to a hotly disputed penalty. Snappily out of the blocks, they first threatened a breakthrough when Darren Anderton released Willem Korsten. The Dutchman, deputising as a striker alongside Les Ferdinand in the absence of any fit regular, hit a half-volley which required Ed de Goey to make a body-stretching tip-over.

Moments later, Ferdinand caused the Chelsea goalkeeper to make a similarly elastic save low down. For Tottenham, the signs were deceptively good, but they should have remembered that this was Chelsea, a side they have failed to beat in their last 22 meetings.

The sense that fates were being stacked up against Graham and Spurs intensified when their hitherto untroubled defence was unluckily breached after 13 minutes. Celestine Babayaro crossed from the left, Gus Poyet clashed in an aerial duel with Ramon Vega, apparently causing the Swiss defender's hand to make contact with the ball. At the sound of the whistle, Spurs believed they had a free-kick. Not so. A penalty was awarded which Hasselbaink converted.

The trend appeared to be set and, though much of the wind-blown action that followed was incohesive and inconsequential, it was little surprise when Chelsea doubled their lead six minutes before half-time. This time, Hasselbaink nudged on Dennis Wise's cross and Gianfranco Zola dived to head home.

The second half developed into little more than a slip-sliding tackle-fest. Boots flew, limbs clattered, tempers frayed and cards emerged from the referee's top pocket.

Then, as the anti-Graham element poured out vitriol with increasing volume, Hasselbaink crowned the occasion with a thrilling, trademark strike. Gathering possession 30 yards out he thundered a low drive beyond Neil Sullivan and into the bottom corner.

Chelsea, for whom Mario Melchiot also hit the post towards the end, therefore recorded a second consecutive win for the first time this Premiership season. Despite the recent traumas, they have climbed to sixth in the table and, while it is hard to believe that London's real challenge emanates from anywhere other than Highbury, they do still have a reasonable view of Arsenal's coat-tails. For Spurs, however, such proximity to the big prize remains fanciful and Graham, ever the realist, knows it.

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