For long spells, especially in the first half, the visitors looked quite capable of taking all three points despite going behind to a John Spencer goal after only seven minutes. Ruud Gullit's one-two with Dennis Wise produced an accurate cross which gave Spencer a free header to beat Jurgen Sommer. Minutes later, the little Scot might have added a second but for a brave block by the alert Sommer.
The equaliser came in the 20th minute when Daniele Dichio nodded Trevor Sinclair's cross to Simon Barker, who thrashed his shot beyond Kevin Hitchcock.
If Chelsea had visions of an afternoon stroll against a set of relegation pushovers, they were sadly mistaken. Andy Impey and Sinclair were often poised in threatening situations while Dichio's height was a constant thorn in Chelsea's side.
When Rangers' desperate commitment threatened to be too much for Chelsea, Gullit was always there to ease the pressure by turning the screw at the other end. Rangers managed to beat Hitchcock in the 67th minute but Sinclair was adjudged offside, and moments later Duberry did his goalkeeper's nerves no favours with a stabbed back-pass that flew inches past his right- hand post.
In the 52nd minute, Mark Hughes was taken off with a calf injury and replaced by Paul Furlong. Hughes now faces a race to be fit in time for next weekend's FA Cup semi-final. Minutes before he was taken off, Hughes had been booked for some needless retaliation. With Chelsea's biggest game of the season looming large, the need to steer clear of any disciplinary problems seemed to be lost on Wise as well: the winger was twice involved with unsavoury incidents and was lucky to finish the game without a yellow card.
Gullit's mere presence always kept the Rangers defence on the balls of their feet and, in the 70th minute, the Dutchman skipped over Rufus Brevett's challenge and fed an inch-perfect pass to Furlong's feet just yards from goal. How the substitute striker contrived to miss the gaping goal only he knows.
Chelsea did gather their wits enough for a late spasm of activity in which Craig Burley almost brought a perfect climax to his afternoon of solid midfield endeavour, but his shot shaved the wrong side of Sommer's right-hand post.
After their Cup glory in midweek, few of the Chelsea players will be content with their performances yesterday. On the other hand, Gullit, as always, showed his class, and Burley, Duberry and Petrescu will have happier memories of this game than most of their team-mates.Reuse content