BLUES FIGHT BACK FOR A POINT AT ST MARY’S

By Dave McCrossen
Aug 29th, 2002

Chelsea maintained their unbeaten start to the season with a 1-1 draw against Southampton at St Mary’s last night (Wednesday 28th August 2002). The Blues fell behind to a second half goal by Fabrice Fernandes, after another error by Celestine Babayaro. The Nigerian left-back has been at fault for a goal in each of the three opening fixtures. At Charlton, he miss-hit a right-footed clearance that led to their first goal. Against Man Utd, he gave Beckham too much space before his deflected shot went in. Then at St Mary’s, Baba tried to bring the ball down on the edge of his own penalty area rather than clearing it. It may not be cultured, but if in doubt, welly it out.

But Chelsea do not simply roll over and die these days. Claudio Ranieri can take pride in the steel that he has brought back into the team, as for the second away match running the Blues came back from behind. Some crisp passing involving Zola and Gudjohnsen eventually saw Frank Lampard trick his way past the last defender before chipping the onrushing goalkeeper to score a classy equaliser. His manager was quick to sing the midfielder’s praises, saying: “Frank is ready for the national team,” after the match.

Inevitably, Ranieri was quizzed about Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink’s future at the club. “The speculation which has come from the Spanish press has not affected Jimmy,” insisted the Italian. “He’s committed to Chelsea and I’ve never even had to speak to him about Barcelona because I know he will stay with us.” Ranieri also attempted to explain Hasselbaink’s slow start to the season: “He’s animal-footballer, who when it comes to the game just attacks it. Sometimes people don’t start the season well. Remember, he’s coming back off a bad injury at the end of last season.”

Of the overall team performance, Ranieri said: “We made too many mistakes, missed too many chances. It is okay to draw in a match like this, but normally we want to win. We played well against Man United last Friday, but that’s a different game, a different style. Southampton always try to play the long ball and win the second ball. It is not our way and it is difficult for us. Like Man Utd, we always want to play good football. But Charlton are like Southampton and we managed to beat them. So it is disappointing to only draw.”

Do you consider the draw at Southampton to be a disappointment? Or was it a good result against a difficult team?

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