Chelsea 1 Stuttgart 0
Gianfranco Zola sent the blue flag flying over Europe with a sensational
strike that ensured another page in his growing place in the Chelsea book of
Gianluca Vialli had decided he could not afford to risk the Sardinian
assassin's suspect groin on the dreadful Rasunda Stadium pitch tonight.
But after 70 minutes of ebb-and-flow football that perhaps showed why the
Cup-Winners' Cup is ranked by all the experts except UEFA as their third
European competition, Zola made the most dramatic of all possible entrances.
Zola had been on the pitch for barely 30 seconds and had only touched the ball
once when Dennis Wise clipped the ball into space down the Chelsea left.
At once, Zola was away, skating clear of the Stuttgart back line as he sped
into the box.
As goalkeeper Franz Wohlfahrt came off his line, Zola unleashed a guided
missile with his right foot that screamed past the Austrian and into the roof of
It was Zola's fourth goal in the competition, his 12th of the season, and
enough to bring the Premiership its first European trophy since Arsenal lifted
the same cup against Zola's Parma side in Copenhagen four years ago.
Even though Vialli's Blues were reduced to 10 men for the final six minutes
after Dan Petrescu was harshly sent off by Italian Stefano Braschi for a high
tackle on Murat Yakin, Chelsea were never going to let this one go.
A crowd invasion was not what was wanted, and nobody could really believe Zola
had been voted man-of-the-match after just 20 minutes.
But as choruses of "Blue Day" rang round the ground Wise held the trophy
aloft, completing the Cup double started with Coca-Cola glory in March, as
Chelsea became the first English team to win the competition twice.
As they paraded in joy, repeating the victory of Dave Sexton's side in 1971,
Vialli jumped around like a whirling dervish, punching the air in pleasure,
savouring the moment.
Perhaps it was fated that Zola was to come off the bench to grab the glory;
after all, his arrival at Stamford Bridge has been the real catalyst for the
west London revolution.
It did not look that way at the start, though. One glance at the pitch had
told Vialli he could not afford to risk Zola, while Graeme Le Saux's absence
opened the way for Danny Granville.
With captain Frank Verlaat and fellow defender Martin Spanring both suspended,
the Germans looked vulnerable, although England had discovered how good a
sweeper Yakin was in March.
Even so, the hordes of Chelsea fans who filled virtually every corner of the
tight, English-style ground, had travelled to the Swedish capital in expectation
of a carnival night.
The early signs were that they would have one too. Making light of a surface
that deteriorated rapidly, Chelsea were neat and inventive - and could have gone
in front after five minutes.
Vialli was in at the start, with Wise, Petrescu and Gustavo Poyet all involved
on the edge of the box to open the way for Roberto Di Matteo, who scuffed his
But, while groin and calf problems had denuded their ranks, Chelsea's achilles
heel all season has been at the back, and tonight was no exception.
Bulgarian schemer Krassimir Balakov was handed too much room, and the pace of
Nigerian Jonathan Akpoborie and sheer brawn of captain Fredi Bobic caused
Fortunately for Chelsea, Stuttgart - Bobic in particular - were so wasteful,
the captain firing across goal after Steve Clarke's misdirected clearance and
then heading Balakov's corner wide from six yards.
These were real escapes, and another one came in the 19th minute when Bobic
released Balakov, too quick and too strong for Clarke, with Ed De Goey flinging
out his big right hand to make an excellent stop.
Michael Duberry's anger at Bobic's flying elbows was clear enough, but
Chelsea, with Vialli and Wise always available, and Poyet and Tore Andre Flo
working hard as well, then regained a measure of control even if their passing
Flo battled away to win three challenges in the box after Frank Leboeuf had
lofted a free-kick forward, before his header dropped on the roof of the net.
Then, after Wise was booked for the most blatant of bodychecks on Balakov,
Poyet twice had room for shots, dragging the first wide before bringing a
reaction stop from Wohlfahrt.
Wise ended the half with a screaming volley a fraction wide - although the
flag was already up - but the blank scoreline was no tribute to the shoddy
defensive work on display at both ends.
There were no changes at the break - and, although Bobic's outstretched foot
almost made contact with a cross-shot from Zvonimir Soldo soon afterwards,
Chelsea took the reins again.
Flo was allowed to control with his hand before whipping in a cross from the
left. Petrescu and Vialli linked, and Wise's shot shaved the upright.
Vialli's snap-shot then brought a scrambling save from Wohlfahrt; Poyet's
ambitious volley was not too far away, and even Granville stole forward to try
his luck with a shot that almost sneaked past the goalkeeper.
Then, with 20 minutes left and seven minutes after Graham Rix had consulted
with Vialli, Zola came on in place of Flo, although surely not even in his
wildest dreams would either the substitute or the manager have anticipated the
It was the sort of goal that has made Zola a hero figure in west London, even
if he will probably not be in the Italian World Cup squad this summer.
Chelsea still had to hold on, of course, getting away with it once when
Matthias Hagner shot over, before Eddie Newton replaced Poyet after the
Uruguayan pulled his groin.
Petrescu could not believe it when he was sent on his way with six minutes to
go, although he was joined before the end by Stuttgart's Gerhard Poschner - the
fourth red card in two finals so far this season - as Stuttgart sent everyone,
including Wohlfahrt, forward.
The victory was spoiled when more than a 100 Chelsea fans spilled over the
barriers to embrace their heroes at the final whistle.
But nothing could take away Chelsea's glory, Vialli's delight - and Zola's
moment of magic.
Chelsea: De Goey, Petrescu, Leboeuf, Clarke, Poyet (Newton 80),
Vialli, Wise, Duberry, Di Matteo, Granville, Flo (Zola 71).
Subs Not Used: Hitchcock, M Hughes, Myers, Charvet, Morris.
Sent Off: Petrescu (84).
Goals: Zola 71.
VfB Stuttgart: Wohlfahrt, Berthold, Yakin, Hagner (Ristic 79),
Haber (Georjevic 75), Balakov, Bobic, Schneider (Endress 55),
Akpoborie, Soldo, Poschner.
Subs Not Used: Ziegler, Becker, Lisztes, Stojkovski.
Sent Off: Poschner (90).
Ref: S Braschi (Italy).