Football: Chelsea fall to Biagini's early strike

European Cup-Winners' Cup: Londoners denied chance to defend title in final despite spirited fight
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The Independent Online
Real Mallorca 1 Chelsea 0 Real Mallorca win 2-1 on agg

THE PROSPECT of England having two clubs in European finals for the first time since Liverpool and Everton went for a fateful Mersey double in 1985 disappeared in the Lluis Sitjar Stadium last night. Like Manchester United in Turin the previous evening, Chelsea fell behind early as a result of poor defending, but unlike Alex Ferguson's team they were unable to make anything of the chances that followed in an excitingly open first half or a much tighter second.

Roberto Di Matteo hit the bar 20 minutes from time and much nearer the end Dennis Wise missed a straightforward header. So Villa Park will see Real Mallorca conclude the best season in their history - and their first in European competition - by taking on the big spenders of Lazio in the last ever Cup-Winners' Cup final.

Chelsea's downfall was their failure to make more of their domination in the one-sided home leg - a regular failing in this season's competition and the principal reason they have lost their hold on the trophy won in Stockholm last May.

Gustavo Poyet, not fit enough to play more than the last half an hour of the first game, came back on the left of midfield and was the outstanding performer as Chelsea reverted to a more familiar 4-4-2 system after experimenting unsuccessfully with 3-5-2 against Leicester on Sunday.

Conceding two late goals in that game badly damaged their hopes of beating Manchester United and Arsenal to the Premiership title and after a depressing five days Gianluca Vialli and Ray Wilkins must lift morale and try to convince their players that second place, if not the title itself, is still within reach.

After the game Vialli said: "We played well and were sometimes unlucky but it's probable now that we will finish the season without winning anything. It will still be a good season for us. We are improving all the time."

Having started five of the seven previous European ties, the player-manager had not even put himself on the substitutes' bench. The rest of the team was more predictable with Di Matteo, left out of the home leg, returning to patrol the centre of midfield with Wise, whose carnivorous instincts at Stamford Bridge had brought one banner reading "Wise = Dog". The Chelsea captain's first biting tackle almost led to his side falling behind because of lax marking at the subsequent free-kick - Dani headed wide - and a few minutes later a similar move brought fatal consequences. It was again Iovan Stankovic, the Yugoslav playmaker, who whipped a cross over and Dani's partner, Leonardo Biagini, escaped Franck Leboeuf to head strongly past Ed de Goey.

There was pandemonium among the noisy home crowd, who had filled the stadium almost to its capacity of 19,000 for what was billed as the greatest game in the history of the holiday island. The occasion merited a security operation involving 800 policemen - more than for either President Clinton's visit or the recent EU summit.

Chelsea had made chances before the goal and did so afterwards as well. Poyet's header from Gianfranco Zola's curling cross after Albert Ferrer broke forward was the best of the early ones. Poyet volleyed over, Wise drove wide and then sent Tore Andre Flo away to turn inside and shoot too high.

The danger to them from Real's famed counter-attacking was spelt out 10 minutes before half-time as each goalkeeper was forced into an important save within a minute. Argentina's Carlos Roa blocked Di Matteo's shot with an outstretched leg, while De Goey pushed aside a Biagini shot.

Chelsea, forced to replace Graeme Le Saux with Celestine Babayaro, had to guard against throwing too many men forward in their increasing desperation for an equaliser. They found a more heavily manned home defence difficult to penetrate, as so many of Spain's leading clubs have done in the past.

When they did break through Di Matteo hit the bar with a fierce drive from 20 yards, Flo's shot was palmed away by Roa and, right at the death, Wise miscued his header badly at the far post.

Happy to play on the break, Mallorca might, however, have settled things more decisively with a second goal, Marcel Desailly making a spectacular clearance off the line from Veljko Paunovic.

Real Mallorca (4-4-2): Roa; Olaizola, Marcelino, Siviero (Carreras, h- t), M Soler; Lauren, Engonga, Stankovic (Arpon, 78), Paunovic; Dani, Biagini (F Soler, 67). Substitutes not used: Galvez (gk), Ibagaza, Luque, Lopez.

Chelsea (4-4-2): De Goey; Ferrer, Leboeuf, Desailly, Le Saux (Babayaro, h-t); Petrescu (Morris, 77), Di Matteo, Wise, Poyet; Flo, Zola. Substitutes not used: Hitchcock (gk), Duberry, Lambourde, Nicholls, Newton.

Referee: H Krug (Ger)

n Lazio earned their place in the final when they drew 0-0 at home to Lokomotiv Moscow last night, going through on away goals after a 1-1 draw in the first leg.

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