Holdsworth the worthy saves Dons

FA Cup: Tottenham are made to pay the penalty as Wimbledon steal Gullit's thunder to earn a deserved replay: Chelsea 2 Hughes 70, Gullit 81 Wimbledon 2 Earle 54, Holdsworth 82 Attendance: 30,805
Click to follow
The Independent Online
BETWEEN them, these two sides have needed replays in five of their previous six ties, so a draw yesterday was no surprise. The unexpected way it arrived, however, was pure FA Cup drama. Controversy, seemingly inevitable where Wimbledon are involved, provided close accompaniment.

Chelsea looked to have become the first club into the semi-finals when they fought back from a goal behind to take a late lead, courtesy of a goal deflected home from Ruud Gullit's shot after a free-kick awarded for a supposed back-pass. Within a minute, though, Wimbledon replied with a deserved equaliser that secured a replay at Selhurst Park a week on Wednesday.

All these frantic scenes were conducted against a backdrop of conflict between the two benches. The substituted Wimbledon striker Mick Harford was particularly agitated and berated a linesman. At the final whistle, as the Chelsea manager Glenn Hoddle wagged a finger at his opposite number Joe Kinnear, Harford departed the piece with a V-sign and some choice language to braying home fans. Chelsea say they will report him, though they did not indicate to whom.

"There were a few words said but that will stay between me and Joe," said Hoddle. "People were just fired up," said Kinnear. "We thought it would have been a sick way to go out of the Cup.''

When Gullit, all elegance and expertise once again, glided forward and drove in a low shot early on, it looked as if we would be seeing the Chelsea who at times this season have played some of the most attractive passing football in England. But there is to them, too, a fragility that Wimbledon exploited.

The Dons might have had the lead when Oyvind Leonhardsen's shot was beaten out by Kevin Hitchcock and Robbie Earle sent the rebound just over the bar; they certainly should have moments later after a sweeping move, the swift Efan Ekoku's deep ball from the right showing that a Goodman is not necessarily hard to find as striker Jon Goodman headed the ball down to Harford, whose half- volley struck a post.

Chelsea fashioned an even sweeter move as response: Dennis Wise crossfield to Gullit, a touch to John Spencer, a flick on to Mark Hughes and Neil Sullivan clutching the low shot at the second attempt. Soon after, Hughes volleyed Wise's corner just over the bar.

But Wimbledon were largely frustrating Chelsea and breaking with such incision that their lead came as no surprise. Ekoku made good ground on the right, was interrupted by Michael Duberry and the referee Graham Poll issued the game's first caution. From the free-kick swung in by Vinny Jones, Robbie Earle rose to head home at the far post.

Now Chelsea's angry support insisted their team increase the tempo. Duly they did and the rewards came. From Wise's cross, Paul Furlong touched the ball on to a post, whence it trickled along the line, Mark Hughes arriving first to stab home.

Then, soon after Spencer had hit the bar, came the bone of contention. Kenny Cunningham was adjudged to have nipped in ahead of John Spencer and intentionally passed the ball back to Sullivan. From Wise's touched free-kick a yard inside the penalty area, Gullit's shot struck Jones and cannoned into the roof of the net.

The tie seemed certain to leave a sour taste, as Harford exchanged words with the Chelsea bench. He thus missed his team's almost immediate equaliser, a facsimile of the first, with this time the substitute Dean Holdsworth profiting from slack marking at the far post to head home Alan Kimble's free-kick. "We've fallen asleep. Very unprofessional," Hoddle lamented.

Comments