Chelsea 1 Wimbledon 2
They never did belong on the same pitch - and when Vinnie Jones fouled Ruud Gullit yesterday, the Wimbledon man made sure that this most incongruous of duels was brought to a premature end by collecting the 11th dismissal of his career.
This was a typical Wimbledon performance in other, more admirable respects. After falling behind to an early goal by Dan Petrescu, they recovered to lead 2-1 before half-time and then, down to 10 men for the last 35 minutes, showed tremendous spirit in holding on to their advantage. Indeed, they would not have needed so much of it had not Dimitri Kharin made a superb save from Dean Holdsworth's 68th-minute penalty.
Wimbledon's first victory in 15 Premiership matches suggested that in their 10th successive season at the highest level it may be as wide of the mark to write them off now as it has ever been. What one can say with rather more certainty is that the passage of time does little to temper Jones' behaviour.
Here he erred more through stupidity than malevolence. Most players who have already been booked, as Jones was in the 14th minute for a bad tackle on Petrescu, can be expected to hold back a little. Not this one. With 55 minutes gone, Jones went clattering into the back of Gullit as the Dutchman collected a pass up the right wing, and the inevitable followed.
There were the usual protestations of innocence afterwards. While Joe Kinnear, the Wimbledon manager, talked of Jones's reputation going before him, Jones himself went as far as to accuse Gullit of cheating. "I played the ball. When the referee came over I couldn't believe it and the Chelsea players couldn't believe it. I got punished for the dive," he said. "I can't see how anyone can say that was a dirty tackle. When I went in to the slide the ball was loose. When you play the ball and you get sent off, anybody who loves the game is going to be gutted. The only thing he [Gullit] did in the game was get two of us booked.
"I am not jumping on the back of the referee. He is a good referee and saw it as he saw it," Jones added. "The worst thing is that the lads have dug in there, got a brilliant result and it's all going to be about me getting sent off."
Gullit, meanwhile, dismissed inquiries about the incident. "It's not important," he said.
It is true that the ball went straight out for a throw-in, that conditions were slippery, and that any question of indiscipline involving Jones is always a particularly vexed one, but it was still a reckless tackle from behind and, given the relative harmlessness of the position Gullit was in, an unnecessary one as well.
As Glenn Hoddle, the Chelsea manager, said, Jones could not really complain. "When you've been booked you have to change your game," he said. "That's something he's got to learn." Some chance.
Jones, 31 next week, has already been dismissed this season, against Nottingham Forest at the beginning of November. An earlier sending-off, against Liverpool, was overturned on grounds of mistaken identity, and Jones is clinging to the hope that video evidence may clear his name this time. But his case looks considerably weaker.
The Liverpool game, at the beginning of September, was the last time Wimbledon had won in the Premiership. But their form has picked up of late and they always looked a bit sharper than a Chelsea team who keep threatening to amount to something before falling away again.
Petrescu's 11th-minute angled drive, from a cross by Gavin Peacock, put them in control, at which point they seemed to think the job had been done. With three strikers and the midfield pushing up, Wimbledon limited Chelsea's scope for playing their way out from the back while creating plenty of danger themselves. Robbie Earle, who had an outstanding match, headed in Alan Kimble's corner to equalise in the 34th minute and five minutes later he provided Efan Ekoku with the chance to head what turned out to be the winner.
Goals: (Petrescu (11) 1-0; Earle (34) 1-1; Ekoku (39) 1-2.
Chelsea (3-5-2): Kharin; Duberry, Lee, Myers; Petrescu, Newton, Gullit, Peacock (Furlong, 81), Clarke; Spencer, Hughes. Substitutes not used: Spackman, Hitchcock (gk).
Wimbledon (4-3-3): Segers; Cunningham, Reeves, Perry, Kimble; Earle, Jones, Leonhardsen; Ekoku (Pearce, 85), Holdsworth (Gayle, 73), Harford (Goodman, 79).
Referee: D Gallagher (Banbury).
Sending-off: Wimbledon: Jones. Bookings: Chelsea: Hughes, Spencer. Wimbledon: Kimble, Harford, Cunningham.
Man of the match: Earle.
Attendance: 21,906.Reuse content