Frustrated Gullit left hot and bothered

Southampton 0 Chelsea 0
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The Independent Online
Maybe the English "El Dorado" is not a goalrush as well as a goldrush. Fabrizio Ravanelli began with a treble but, after 90 minutes of straining against a former Bristol City reserve, Gianluca Vialli ended his Premiership debut without even a solitary goal.

He did come pretty close, hitting the post with a spectacular overhead kick. More generally, he showed every indication that, in the relatively wide open spaces of the Premiership's penalty areas, he will be a regular scorer, if not a 30-goals-a-season man.

The former Juventus striker showed, like Ravanelli, that he has the required aptitude to succeed in England. In temperatures which must have reminded him of the Mediterranean, he never stopped hunting, frequently finding space on the flanks and never shirking the physical battle.

"He's going to be an exceptional player over here," said Graeme Souness, once his team-mate, now Southampton's manager. "The longer the game went on, the more fox-like he became."

While Souness said he was happy with a home point, Ruud Gullit was "disappointed" with an away one. The contrasting response was an indication of both their relative aspirations and their players' performances. Souness said: ''The first thing you ask for is commitment and we got that in abundance.''

Gullit was badly missed on the pitch. ''I was relaxed in the first half,'' said the managerial debutant, "but it became frustrating as the game went on. I could see where damage could be done but you cannot do anything about it when you are not on the pitch.''

Without Gullit, who still does not know when he will be fit, Chelsea, Frank Leboeuf apart, did not play that well. But they still dominated much of the game, creating almost all the chances.

Yet, with one exception, it was Southampton's players who achieved more of their potential. The exception, sadly, was Matt Le Tissier. He hit the bar with a moment of skill which, said Souness with some justification: "no one else on the pitch could have done." But that, despite the watching Glenn Hoddle, was it.

Le Tissier was not helped by Southampton's defensiveness. With the wingers given marking duties, only Neil Shipperley was visible when Le Tissier gained possession. He thus regularly wasted it.

Southampton's approach was shaped by their lack of resources. Chelsea's summer spending has been documented world-wide. Less well reported was Southampton's new recruit, Richard Dryden, purchased from Bristol City for pounds 150,000 - or just over a fortnight's combined wages for Vialli, Leboeuf and Di Matteo.

Dryden, 27, had not played a competitive match since December, when he was dropped after a home defeat that left Bristol City in 20th place in the Second Division. He found himself marking a man whose last competitive match ended with a European Champions' Cup winners' medal.

In the circumstances, Dryden and Co might have been justified in feeling overawed. As if to dispell any such feelings, Southampton's own famous names quickly sought to redress the balance. First Souness delayed his entrance until even the novelty of Gullit and Vialli had worn off.

Then, with less than a minute played, Le Tissier, received a ball on the right and gently chipped over the back-pedalling Dimitri Kharin and on to the bar. Eighty-nine minutes later we were left to wish "if only" because the match which followed, though occasionally inspired, was generally pedestrian.

Chelsea gradually emerged as the better side but, too often, Southampton harried them into an English-style game (i.e. long passes, bad passes, hurried passes, etc). When they did create chances they were let down by their control (Dennis Wise) or their accuracy (everybody who attempted a header).

It took 38 minutes to fire a shot at Dave Beasant - and then Andy Myers should have passed. Plenty more shots followed, but no one appeared to have told Chelsea that Beasant has cured his near-post neurosis since he left Stamford Bridge.

As the game wore on, it became a contest between Vialli and Beasant. Twice the goalkeeper denied him after he had sprung the offside trap. Once he made a point-blank save after Vialli had cut in from the right.

And, once, he was beaten. Myers skipped by Jim Magilton on the left and crossed just behind the Italian. He checked, turned and, before anyone could react, executed a stunning overhead kick. The ball bounced away from Beasant, onto the post, and away.

Southampton (4-4-2): Beasant; Dodd, Neilsen, Dryden, Charlton; Oakley (Basham, 58), Magilton (Benali, 71), Venison, Heaney; Shipperley, Le Tissier. Substitutes not used: Watson, Potter, Moss (gk).

Chelsea (3-5-2): Kharin; Johnsen, Lebouef, Clarke; Petrescu, Wise, Di Matteo, Burley (Morris, 58), Myers; Vialli, Hughes. Substitutes not used: Duberry, Minto, Nicholls, Hitchcock (gk).

Referee: M Bodenham (Looe, Cornwall).

Bookings: Southampton: Dodd, Le Tissier. Chelsea: Wise, Morris.

Attendance: 15,186.

Man of the match: Beasant.