Football: Chelsea set to sign pounds 3m Ambrosetti

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The Independent Online
FAR FROM resting on their laurels after beginning the season with two straight victories and seven goals without reply, Chelsea will today confirm the seriousness of their challenge in Europe and at home by paying Vicenza about pounds 3m for Gabriele Ambrosetti.

The 26 year-old winger has been keen to move since Vicenza were relegated last season. He played against Chelsea in both legs of the European Cup- Winners' Cup semi-final two years ago, in which the London side were 2- 0 down on aggregate before squeezing through and going on to win the trophy.

A natural winger would certainly add an extra dimension - perhaps the single missing one - to Gianluca Vialli's options. He has been relying for width on Dan Petrescu down the right and full-back Graeme Le Saux on the left, and was forced to turn to his substitutes in order to get more crosses in as the 10 men of Skonto Riga held on with great determination in Wednesday night's critical Champions' League qualifying tie at Stamford Bridge.

Celestine Babayaro came on, enabling Gustavo Poyet to move inside, and both scored in the space of two minutes to break down Skonto at last, before Chris Sutton made victory over two legs even more likely with his first goal for the club. "I wanted more balls in the box and Gus is great at making runs when the cross comes in, so I put Baba on and it worked," Vialli said.

Players as eminent as Didier Deschamps and Gianfranco Zola were brought off, but it must still have been demoralising for the Latvians to see replacements of the quality of Babayaro and Tore Andre Flo coming on. Flo, who scored as a substitute in the 4-0 drubbing of Sunderland on Saturday, set up the Nigerian's goal and was thwarted by one of several outstanding saves by the Skonto goalkeeper, Aleksandrs Kolinko.

Vialli, who has worked hard at erasing the British mentality that there is something shameful about either starting as a substitute or being taken off, believes that Flo is "probably the best player in the world when he starts from the bench, as he's got unbelievable ability to turn a match". The Norwegian signed a new contract in the summer, and is happy, like his equally equable compatriot Ole Gunnar Solskjaer at Manchester United, to stay even though he will not start many games.

Flo's two little cameos in as many matches would nevertheless have put more pressure on Sutton had that final goal not arrived. As against Sunderland, the club's most expensive signing at pounds 10m from Blackburn had again laid the ball off well to others with head and feet, without showing any sign of putting it in the net. His relief at doing so, following a sharp turn, was evident, as was the pleasure his supportive team-mates took from it - although it led to the burst of over-excitement a few minutes later that brought a yellow card for shooting past the goalkeeper again when the whistle had clearly gone.

Apart from that, and a poor attendance of barely 22,000, the only other disappointment was that results in the first leg of other qualifying ties seem to have ruined any slim hopes Chelsea had of being top seeded in any of the eight Champions' League groups. Their good form in Europe over recent seasons, however, is likely to ensure they are among the second- seeded clubs when the draw for the group stages is made, on 26 August in Monaco.