Football: Chelsea rue profligacy

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The Independent Online
Chelsea 2 Nottingham Forest 1

WHILE ONE would hesitate to suggest that any club should give lucrative employment to the selfish, stubborn Pierre van Hooijdonk, Dave Bassett's suggestion that Chelsea swap their unemployed Tore Andre Flo for his contract rebel may not be as daft as Ken Bates seems to think it is. If nothing else, the Dutchman is a prolific goalscorer, and that is something that the current Chelsea line-up patently does not have.

It warmed the heart to see Dave Beasant playing out of his skin on the sixth anniversary of his shabby treatment from Chelsea (when, after a couple of blunders against Norwich, Ian Porterfield shamefully declared that they were now looking for a new goalkeeper), but one has to question the ruthlessness of Chelsea's finishing on Saturday.

It is true that against a lesser keeper than Beasant, now 39, the wonderfully gifted Gianfranco Zola could have had as many as five goals instead of one but, while the diminutive Italian has many qualities, putting the ball consistently in the back of the net is not one of them. As for his fellow countryman Pierluigi Casiraghi, well, he is merely a one-in-four man - 58 goals in 210 Serie A appearances up until the end of the 1996- 97 season, his last full one in Italy.

Indeed the only prolific scorer at the club is the manager, who, despite Ruud Gullit's reluctance to play him, has been top scorer in his two seasons at the club. Not surprisingly, Gianluca Vialli admitted he was not about to hang up his boots just yet. Of course, he could always dip once more into the club's bottomless coffers. How that must irk someone like Bassett who must wait until Forest find a buyer for Van Hooijdonk before he can strengthen his team. On Saturday, it must been like fighting a giant with one hand tied behind your back - having had your nose bloodied after just 25 seconds.

Zola's goal was the first by a Chelsea forward in six hours this season. It owed much to the tenacity of Casiraghi, who is not unlike Mark Hughes in that his abrasive qualities will enable others to score. Alan Rogers complained afterwards about what he saw as illegitimate hustling but, as Bassett said, "you cannot be a big tart, you have to boot it clear."

Given Chelsea's profligacy in attack it is surprising that Vialli has had Gustavo Poyet on the bench in the last two games. The Uruguayan midfielder has an uncanny eye for goal and 10 minutes before half-time he was again in the right place at the right time, after Beasant had partially stopped Celestine Babayaro's header, to force home his third goal of the season, making him comfortably the club's leading goalscorer.

Chelsea should have won in a canter after that, as the difference in quality at times became embarrassing. But Beasant, who up until this season was still training with Chelsea, continued to frustrate Zola at every twist and turn.

The whole complexion of the game changed when the speedy Jean-Claude Darcheville scored on a breakaway. Bassett had been forced to respond to the appeal of the Forest fans to bring on a second forward at two goals down after the luckless Geoff Thomas limped off with what appeared to be another cruciate ligament injury - and for the last 20 minutes Forest put Chelsea through the wringer.

Goals: Zola (1) 1-0; Poyet (35) 2-0; Darcheville (68) 2-1.

Chelsea (4-4-2): De Goey; Petrescu, Leboeuf, Duberry, Le Saux; Poyet (Lambourde, 83), Desailly, Newton, Babayaro; Casiraghi (Laudrup, 89), Zola. Substitutes not used: Flo, Morris, Hitchcock (gk).

Nottingham Forest (4-5-1): Beasant; Bonalair, Chettle, Quashie, Rogers; Stone, Johnson, Thomas (Harewood, 58), Armstrong, Gray (Lyttle, 65); Darcheville. Substitutes not used: Freedman, Edwards, Crossley (gk).

Referee: P Alcock (Sevenoaks).

Bookings: Chelsea: Petrescu.

Attendance: 34,809.

Man of the match: Beasant.

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