Football: Hughes in groove

Click to follow
The Independent Online
Chelsea 2

Minto 13, M Hughes 73

Leicester City 1

Sinclair og 47

Attendance: 27,723

With Leicester coming down from the high of their midweek Coca- Cola Cup triumph and Chelsea's sights firmly set on the FA Cup final, this didn't have the ingredients for an end of season thriller - and it certainly wasn't.

There were some moments of frantic action, especially the last five minutes when the Leicester substitute Ian Marshall hit the Chelsea crossbar and Dan Petrescu saved his side's bacon with a headed goal-line clearance after another Leicester substitute, Jamie Lawrence, had looked certain to give his side a late equaliser. However, for the majority of yesterday's game at Stamford Bridge these teams had the jaded look that accompanies long cup runs.

A burst of activity as early as the 13th minute saw Chelsea take the lead through Scott Minto just seconds after his keeper Craig Forrest had pulled off what proved to be the game's best save to thwart Emile Heskey after a superb 40-yard pass from Garry Parker had unzipped the home defence. From the clearance Gianluca Vialli and Mark Hughes sliced an opening at the other end that saw Minto swerve his shot behind Kevin Poole's dive.

Vialli's reunion with Mark Hughes in the Chelsea attack was far from successful as the Italian striker struggled to find his touch, with his fellow countryman Gianfranco Zola sitting impatiently on the bench. Zola did eventually get on as a 78th-minute replacement for Hughes, five minutes after the Welshman had scored the winner.

Leicester had fought back to level the scores within two minutes of the restart. Franck Leboeuf's slack headed clearance fell to Matt Elliott and his shot was deflected over the line by Frank Sinclair. The goal brought some colour back into Leicester's cheeks but Hughes was to settle matters. He started the move that sent Danny Granville hurtling clear on the left, then met the full-back's cross to head the decisive goal past Poole.

Ruud Gullit then decided his striker had endured enough of Pontus Kamark's renowned man-marking and sent on Zola. But the Bridge's Italian darling barely had a chance to shine as Leicester summoned the energy for that late burst which almost brought them the point their second-half effort deserved.