Hughes has an off-day

Everton 1 Unsworth 36 pen Chelsea 1 Spencer 20 Attendance: 34,968
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The Independent Online
WITH two sides battling frantically to avoid the anonymity of the middle of the table, a tight and tempestuous affair was perhaps predictable. The fact that Chelsea were barely hampered by the dismissal of Mark Hughes was a reflection that more adventure in the early stages might have reaped more rewards.

The priority both sides gave to pulling men back behind the ball produced a scrappy, yet pulsating game. Attempts on goal were frequent, but the finishing was consistently haphazard.

Six players, including the petulant Hughes, were booked in addition to his dismissal for a petty stamp on David Unsworth, yards from play but inches from the referee Robbie Hart. Hughes's booking, two minutes before the red-card offence, should have been ample warning.

Perhaps his isolation in attack, supported only by the exceptional John Spencer and the occasional foray from midfield by Ruud Gullit, darkened his mood. Everton, while deploying the more attacking formation, failed to feed their wingers with quality possession until the numerical advantage told.

The Chelsea manager, Glenn Hoddle, was cautiously critical of the referee, revealing that the substitution of Dennis Wise was a pre-emptive measure to prevent another of his players disappearing down the Goodison Park tunnel. "It's a sad state of affairs when you have to juggle the pattern of the team on the back of the threat of having a player sent off," Hoddle said.

Joe Royle, the Everton manager, admitted that poor finishing, particularly in the closing stages when the substitute Daniel Amokachi, Barry Horne and Graham Stuart went close, denied his side the win. Chelsea, however, always threatened on the break and the substitute Paul Furlong, together with Spencer and Terry Phelan, were particularly unfortunate not to surprise the home side.

After a peaceful start, the Chelsea opener sparked the fireworks. Gary Ablett cushioned a harmless clearance, expecting Unsworth to take up possession. The two failed to communicate and Spencer nipped in, powered into the area and shot low into the far corner.

The equaliser was equally fortuitous. Mr Hart ruled in Anders Limpar's favour as the Swede tripped inside the box after wrestling for possession with Dan Petrescu. The decision was fiercely disputed but there was no arguing with Unsworth's emphatic, thumping conversion.