Arsenal 2 Chelsea 1

  • By: Martin Lipton, PA Sport
  • Last Updated: May 22 2012, 10:00 BST

Mark 'Sparky' Hughes came off the bench to rekindle Chelsea's Coca-Cola Cup

chances and rescue Ruud Gullit from his selection and tactical blunders.

The years have been kind to Gullit, but tonight at Highbury time started to

catch up with him with Chelsea looking as if they would pay the price by seeing

their Wembley hopes killed off in the space of 90 minutes.

Gullit had gambled on giving himself only his third start of the season as a

direct replacement for the absent Frank Leboeuf and leaving Hughes and Luca

Vialli on the bench.

Instead of inspiring the Blues, Gullit's presence in the back four only served

to undermine what fragile confidence remained in his side after their nightmare

recent run.

Gullit's shocking back header after Emmanuel Petit's clip forward gifted Marc

Overmars his fifth in five matches to seemingly put Arsenal on course for their

sixth competition final, as the manager's lack of fitness was horribly clear.

Even after abandoning Plan A and pushing himself into midfield at half-time

the Dutchman looked unable to change the course of the game, Stephen Hughes

capitalising on more sloppiness at the back to claim his first of the season.

But with Chelsea seemingly having lost more than they had gained from their

sunshine break in Portugal and Gianfranco Zola's goal drought now a club-worst

nine games, Welsh dragon Hughes entered the fray in place of Tore Andre Flo.

And within five minutes the firebrand striker had ghosted in front of Alex

Manninger on to Zola's floated ball to steer into the vacant net for his sixth

of the campaign and give the Blues hope for the second leg.

It still needed two world-class saves from Ed De Goey - and a slice of luck -

to keep the West Londoners in contention, and Gullit must be counting himself

deeply fortunate his side did not pay a heavier price.

Arsenal have never lost a cup tie to their London rivals and with Gullit,

clearly nowhere near fit and making his first start since mid-November,

out-of-form Chelsea looked there for the taking.

Wenger clearly thought so too, pushing Overmars right up from the off, and

with Ray Parlour prominent, the home side took charge.

Parlour was the first to bring De Goey into action with a stinging drive, and

in the 15th minute Arsenal were inches away.

Overmars' presence distracted Frank Sinclair, who did not react as Nigel

Winterburn stole into space on the left to pick up Petit's pass.

Winterburn looked up, spotted Bergkamp lurking between Gullit and Steve

Clarke, and when he delivered the Dutchman's powerful header beat De Goey all

ends up only to bounce off the top of the bar.

Still it was a sign of what was to come, Hughes the next to test De Goey, and

the opener, in the 23rd minute, was no more than Arsenal were worth.

Gullit, though, had to hold up his hands, stretching his neck but only

succeeding in laying it on a plate for Overmars to claim his 10th of the season

with De Goey stranded.

Chelsea, badly missing Roberto Di Matteo as well as Leboeuf, had offered

little other than Flo's aerial threat, with Zola still struggling for form.

One jinking run by the little Sardinian ended with Flo's poor touch running

the ball into the arms of the under-employed Manninger, but that was the sum

total of their attacking intent.

And with the labouring Gullit suddenly looking every one of his 35 years, and

Chelsea - giving the ball away far too easily - at sixes and sevens at the back,

the surprise was that Arsenal did not make more advantage.

Gullit had to act at the break, giving on-loan Frenchman Laurent Chalvert his

debut in place of the near-invisible Dan Petrescu, switching to three at the

back and pushing himself into midfield.

But before the player-boss had touched the ball in his new role, Arsenal

doubled their advantage.

Bernard Lambourde was the guilty man, gifting Overmars possession, and the

winger linked superbly with Nicolas Anelka and raced to the dead-ball line

before pulling back for Hughes to smash home left-footed from 12 yards.

It might have got worse almost instantly, when Graeme Le Saux, already booked,

got himself involved in an ugly incident with Gilles Grimandi and was lucky to

escape with only a ticking off from Martin Bodenham.

As it was, Chelsea did start to raise their game, Le Saux's cross almost

seeing Steve Bould put into his own net before Flo somehow placed his free

header from six yards wide from a Zola corner.

That was Flo's last contribution, Hughes sent on as Gianluca Vialli - still

top scorer - kicked his heels until the last three minutes.

Still it needed a quite outstanding stop by De Goey to prevent Bergkamp

finishing a superb move involving Parlour, Anelka and Petit with a stunning

left-footer.

And within 30 seconds Hughes struck after Winterburn had originally erred,

silencing the home fans and bringing the previously near-silent visiting

contingent to life.

Arsenal's response was instant, De Goey pulling off another flying save to

foil Petit from Bergkamp's clever corner but now Chelsea had a lifeline to take

back to Stamford Bridge in a fortnight.

They rode the late storm unscathed, Anelka a whisker high before De Goey

denied Bergkamp's curler with a spectacular gather. Hardly deserved, but Chelsea

live to fight again.

Teams

Arsenal: Manninger, Winterburn, Bould, Adams, Anelka, Bergkamp,

Overmars, Parlour, Petit, Grimandi (Platt 84), Hughes.

Subs Not Used: Boa Morte, Lukic.

Booked: Bergkamp, Grimandi.

Goals: Overmars 23, Hughes 47.

Chelsea: De Goey, Petrescu (Chalvet 45), Gullit, Clarke,

Lambourde, Duberry, Le Saux, Flo (Hughes 59),

Sinclair (Vialli 86), Newton, Zola.

Booked: Le Saux, Duberry.

Goals: Hughes 68.

Att: 38,114

Ref: M J Bodenham (East Looe).