Football: Flo keeps Chelsea in the chase

European Cup-Winners' Cup: Chelsea 1 Real Mallorca 1: Spanish defence holds firm in semi-final after Vialli's men cancel out Dani's strike
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The Independent Online
CHELSEA, LIKE Manchester United, must do it away from home if they are to do it at all in Europe this season. For the third time in four Cup-Winners' Cup ties they failed to run up a significant advantage from the first leg on their own ground, being forced in last night's exciting semi-final to retrieve a half-time deficit in order to preserve an unbeaten home record in European games dating back 40 years.

Tore Andre Flo volleyed an equaliser soon after coming on for the second half, but a much-vaunted opposing defence proved to be the Real thing, repelling all further attempts by the holders.

It would be untrue to say that Chelsea lacked bite - especially so in the case of Dennis Wise, who belied his name yet again by sinking his teeth into an opponent's shoulder as the going got rough during the second half. His excuse would be that it was in retaliation for having nails raked down his neck, but the incident summed up the London club's frustration at failing to pull ahead during their one convincing period, in the third quarter of the game.

Ray Wilkins, running the show from the dug-out while Gianluca Vialli played throughout the 90 minutes, was annoyed - or as close as he gets to annoyance - at conceding a goal after half an hour to a classic counter- attack, but repeated his belief that Chelsea can score at least one away from home. "We spoke about pressing them very early and didn't quite do that, and allowed them off the hook," he said. "In the second half we worked a bit harder to press the game upfield."

Astute as he is, Wilkins was unable to claim the credit for the half- time substitution that helped bring about that transformation. It was apparently Vialli's decision to replace the labouring Celestine Babayaro with Flo, who had again been left on the bench initially. Zola partnered Vialli, but neither of the Italians were at their best.

Any thought that the visiting defence would crumble like a sandcastle on a Balearic beach was quickly dispelled as the first wave of attacks were repelled by strong resistance from the big centre-half, Marcelino. For the first 20 minutes, Chelsea were kept at distance, Wise shooting well wide and Zola far too high, from a free-kick in a promising position.

Franck Leboeuf's back-header across goal from Zola's corner was more encouraging and by the mid-point of the half the waves were becoming more insistent. In the 21st minute, Graeme Le Saux and Babayaro set up Wise for a shot from 30 yards that England's World Cup nemesis, the Argentinian goalkeeper Carlos Roa, dramatically fisted away. Three minutes later Babayaro missed his team's best chance of the half. Two defenders impeded each other going for Le Saux's cross and the ball fell perfectly for the Nigerian, who shot feebly at Roa.

Roa made a more testing save from Jody Morris, diving to his left, before, in the 31st minute, Mallorca scored with their first threatening attack. Veljko Paunovic, the Yugoslav midfielder, played an astute forward pass that Dani carried swiftly past Leboeuf before rounding Ed de Goey and slipping the ball into an empty net.

Chelsea could not say that they had not been warned. Mallorca's smart counter-attacking play was known to be as integral to their game-plan as solid defending, and Poyet, a former team-mate of Dani's at Real Zaragoza, surely knew all about his pace.

Flo's arrival for the second half did much to reduce the Spaniards' considerable height advantage and seemed to galvanise the home side. The Norwegian took up an advanced position on the left, from where he volleyed an equalising goal within five minutes. Leboeuf found Dan Petrescu on the right for a cross that Zola headed onto a defender's knee, Flo driving the rebound unstoppably past Roa.

Now Mallorca's defensive qualities really were put to the test, Wilkins soon changing the pattern again and responding to the crowd's chants for Poyet by giving the Uruguayan his first appearance at Stamford Bridge since December. Zola was withdrawn, allowing Flo to move into a central position and the alteration almost turned to gold once more: Poyet, the scorer of 11 goals before injuring his knee at Christmas, met Wise's cross firmly, only to head too high.

Another good cross, this time by Petrescu, required Roa to save well from Vialli's header but there was then something of a lull until the last few minutes. Poyet's drive past the post two minutes from time was the closest Chelsea came to ending Mallorca's record of remaining unbeaten in their away legs in this, their first season in European football.

Chelsea (4-4-2): De Goey; Ferrer (Lambourde, 79), Leboeuf, Desailly, Le Saux; Petrescu, Morris, Wise, Babayaro (Flo, h-t); Vialli, Zola (Poyet, 60). Substitutes not used: Hitchcock (gk), Duberry, Di Matteo, Nicholls.

Real Mallorca (4-4-2): Roa; Olaizola, Marcelino, Siviero, M Soler; Lauren, Engonga, Ibagaza (Carreras, 62), Paunovic; Dani, Biagini (F Soler, 84). Substitutes not used: Cesar Galvez (gk), Domiguez, Arpon, Luque, Lopez.

Referee: D Jol (Netherlands).