Football: Cautious Chelsea turn off the style

Helsingborg 0 Chelsea 0 Chelsea win 1-0 on aggregate
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CHELSEA'S HOLD on the European Cup-Winners' Cup, not entirely firm after a 1-0 victory in the first leg, was in danger of being wrenched away for long periods in southern Sweden last night as Helsingborg sought to repeat their elimination of Aston Villa from the Uefa cup two years ago.

The pleasant little ground, filled with 12,348 spectators - less than a thousand of them from London - might easily have witnessed another upset, for the home side attacked their multinational opponents with verve and enthusiasm, hitting the post on one occasion but not quite hitting the jackpot.

Whatever Chelsea had gained from four recent successive victories was not evident here, possibly because the line-up was changed again to accommodate a more defensive strategy. In particular their disappointing performance cried out for the invention of Gianfranco Zola, who was again left out of the squad altogether. Just across the bay from Elsinore, it seemed akin to watching Hamlet without the Prince.

Graeme Le Saux, a source of danger in the first leg with his positive runs down the left flank, had his hands full this time subduing Arild Stavrum, Sweden's leading goalscorer. Brian Laudrup, who eventually offered a similar option on the right-hand side at Stamford Bridge after switching from a floating role, was last night left on the substitutes' bench in the most surprising of three changes from a fortnight ago.

Gianluca Vialli, who had paired himself with Tore Andre Flo in attack, insisted that the team was the strongest available. "We always try to play the best team for the match," he said. "We can play much better but it's always difficult in Europe. We didn't give much away. We hoped they would come out a bit more."

Having seen Chelsea's team sheet, however, Helsingborg's coach, Age Hareide, the former Manchester City and Norwich midfielder, told his players: "Chelsea thought they were already in the second round. Maybe their attitude wasn't right. We fancied our chances and I was surprised we created so much in the first half. I felt Chelsea were lucky."

He was right that, for 45 minutes, what life there was in the game was provided almost exclusively by the Swedes. After having central defender Zoran Jovanovski booked in the first 30 seconds for fouling Flo, they went at Chelsea more legitimately with the wind at their backs and hope in their hearts.

Magnus Powell, whose surname is explained by his Geordie lineage, caused the first touch of anxiety by whipping in a low cross from the by-line and Ed de Goey had to concede a corner while going down at Peter Wibran's feet.

Kenneth Storvik's pass then sent Powell clear of Franck Leboeuf for the second time, the Frenchman only just recovering to divert the ball behind.

A series of corners led to the most threatening moment of the match. From the third of them, swung over by Stavrum, de Goey was beaten by Jovanovski's back-header, which bounced against a post.

Heartened still further, Helsingborg kept coming forward, one mass charge resulting in a shot just past the same post from Powell after Leboeuf twice failed to clear. Just before the interval Le Saux was unable to cut out a cross but from Stavrum's chip, Powell's header looped over the bar.

Chelsea improved after half time, giving the ball away less frequently and keeping it in the Swedish half for longer periods, but without giving Andersson a shot to save.

Hareide replaced Stavrum, but his team also failed thereafter to make the opposing goalkeeper work hard enough. Mattias Jonsson hooked a shot over the bar under a challenge from Albert Ferrer and a late header from the substitute Erik Wahlstedt drifted wide.

Helsingborg (4-4-2): S Andersson; Nilsson, Jacobsson, Jovanovski, Edman (C Andersson, 82); Stavrum (Johansen, 60), Wibran (Wahlstedt, 71), Lantz, Storvik; Jonsson, Powell. Substitutes not used: P Ljung, Bjornsson, J Ljung, Larsson (gk).

Chelsea (4-4-2): De Goey: Ferrer, Leboeuf, Duberry, Le Saux; Poyet, Di Matteo, Desailly, Babayaro; Vialli (Casiraghi, 90), Flo. Substitutes not used: Petrescu, Laudrup, Lambourde, Newton, Morris, Hitchcock (gk).

Referee: V Hrinak (Slovakia).