Southampton 2 Chelsea 3
There were two master classes at The Dell. Both were provided by Ruud Gullit. First, he fashioned Chelsea's victory in his image, exuding style, purpose and authority and intermittent fragility. Then he graciously accepted an invitation to articulate the responsibilities that come with great natural talent both on the pitch and off it, and exhibited much the same qualities.
As the fulcrum around which his team's insistent playing pattern has been designed, the Dutchman was characteristically beguiling. The meticulous elegance of his passing created the opening which led to the second Chelsea goal from a penalty and was also instrumental in allowing him to score the winner.
Not for Gullit, however, the cosy acceptance of life as a visionary. He likes nothing more than to roll up his sleeves and muck in with the rest of the lads when there is real work to be done, like getting the ball back.
He expanded on this later, after he and Chelsea had expended more toil than they might have wished in hanging on to the points. Without hard work, he said, a player blessed with natural talent could not achieve anything: "It starts when you're at home. You must eat well, not drink, not smoke a lot. On the pitch you have to make sure other players get better because of your performances. You always have to work hard because that's what they expect of you. If you set a good example, then they do the same thing. I was raised like this. It helps me."
That it is also helping Chelsea delights Gullit, who is happy with the team and their style and intends to be around a while yet.
It was obviously not in Chelsea's game plan to fall behind in the formative stages, a goal which needed a deflection but still signified their defensive uncertainty. Dennis Wise's splendid 30-yard strike for the equaliser exposed similar failings in Southampton's rearguard.
Gullit's influence then proved telling, although Southampton were never less than eager and scrambled a second goal, credited to Neil Shipperley, after a free-kick from Matthew Le Tissier. In his analysis of a gifted player's duties, Gullit had emphasised that it was not directed at the enigmatic Englishman. For all that, it spoke volumes, of course.
Goals: Widdrington (7) 1-0; Wise 21 (1-1); Wise (pen 27) 1-2; Shipperley (37) 2-2; Gullit (54) 2-3.
Southampton (4-4-2): Beasant; Dodd, Hall, Monkou, Charlton; Le Tissier, Magilton, Widdrington, Walters (Venison, 74); Watson, Shipperley. Substitutes not used: Robinson, Grobbelaar (gk).
Chelsea (3-5-1-1): Hitchcock; Duberry (Johnsen, 72), Lee, Clarke; Petrescu, Spackman (Spencer, 80), Gullit, Wise, Phelan; Peacock; Hughes. Substitute not used: Kharin (gk).
Referee: G Ashby (Worcester).
Bookings: Southampton Watson, Magilton, Venison. Chelsea Wise, Hughes.
Man of the match: Gullit. Attendance: 15,226.Reuse content