Fans on rampage as Chelsea slump

Click to follow
The Independent Online
Real Zaragoza 3

Chelsea 0

Baton-wielding Spanish police launched into rioting Chelsea fans here last night in a show of strength equal to that taking place on the pitch where the London club saw their Cup-Winners' Cup hopes disappear into the warm night air.

Chelsea, with a bad record at home and abroad, can expect stiff penalties from Uefa. They would not have to expel them from the competition. Real Zaragoza, swift and incisive, look to have done that already.

The men from Stamford Bridge had prepared in training to keep things tight, to work their way into the game and so quieten the drums and the noisy Spanish songs. That is what they wanted. What they got was the worst of starts with a goal inside the opening eight minutes, and already evidence enough to confirm their fears that this would be another test again from what they had encountered on their travels so far.

There had been cause for concern in how easily Zaragoza were pulling Chelsea's central defenders apart, so that the solid understanding Kevin Hitchcock had come to rely upon was transformed into a wasteland of indecision and uncertainty.

However, when they fell behind it was down to rank bad defending from a set-piece they are used to containing week after week at home. Nayim's corner from the left was swung deep to the back post, where Javier Aguado had peeled away into space. His header looked to have carried too much weight for Hitchcock but, just in case, the captain, Miguel Pardeza, applied a final touch. Nayim, the former Tottenham midfielder, has an environment here more suited to his patient probing skills and superior technique. Chelsea were affording him too much room in which to work and pick his moments.

One such moment came in the 26th minute, when he waited for Juan Esnaider to make his move. The ball was perfectly judged and Scott Minto found wanting, the prolific Argentinian controlling it on his chest before striking a clinical left-footed finish.

Hitchcock came out to block Esnaider, then Minto, redeeming his earlier error, cleared from under his own crossbar after Nayim had been the originator of an intelligent free-kick combination. So in control were they that there was no need for Zaragoza to indulge in the kind of dirty tricks that Glenn Hoddle, Chelsea's player-manager, had told his men to beware of. Minto was the first of the night to be booked for a foul, but the yellow cards flourished later in front of Aguado and Gustavo Poyet were more consequential, ruling the two home players out of the Stamford Bridge return.

In the 57th minute, Zaragoza scored their third when a Francisco Higuera cross found Pardeza. His shot struck Minto and spun into the path of Esnaider, who did not miss. He should have had his hat-trick in the 75th minute, but lifted the chance over the bar from point-blank distance.

By then Hoddle had sent himself on in search of the away goal which would have offered a chance of redemption for Chelsea, but that disappeared when the 22-year-old Juanmi made a brilliant reflex save to flick over Furlong's acrobatic 85th-minute volley.

Chelsea (4-4-1-1): Hitchcock; Clarke, Johnsen, Sinclair, Minto; Rocastle (Hoddle, 68), Spackman, Peacock, Myers; Spencer (Stein, 68); Furlong.

Real Zaragoza: (4-4-2) Juanmi; Belsue, Caceres, Aguado, Solana; Poyet, Aragon (Sanjuan, 80), Pardeza (Oscar, 67), Nayim; Higuera, Esnaider.

Referee: L Sundell (Swe).

Chelsea fans in riot, page 2

Comments