Football: Leboeuf gives Chelsea the edge

Chelsea 1 Helsingborg 0
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SWEDEN MAY not have finished heaping embarrassment on English football. Two weeks on from Glenn Hoddle's European Championship nemesis in Stockholm, their Cup holders Helsingborg held Chelsea to a single goal at an under-populated Stamford Bridge, assuring themselves of a big night, if not a historic success, in the second leg.

No club has ever successfully defended the European Cup-Winners' Cup and, as Chelsea's previous attempt to do so 27 years ago ended in chastening defeat by unfancied Swedish opposition, they still have reason to be wary.

The part-time professionals of Helsingborg, only three points off the top of their league, earned the holders' respect by resisting stubbornly and submitting only once, to Franck Leboeuf's fierce free-kick just before half-time. Even that goal should not have been allowed, for television replays showed that Dennis Wise, the home captain, had pulled a defender out of the wall.

For all the international talent available to Chelsea, the only natural width was supplied by Graeme Le Saux. For all their abundant possession, there were not enough real chances, especially in the second half, to merit the sort of lead they had been expecting to take to Sweden.

Chelsea's usual game of musical chairs had left no seats - not even on the substitutes' bench in some cases - for seven of the players who took part in the club's first victory of the season over Nottingham Forest on Saturday. The strikers Gianfranco Zola and Pierluigi Casiraghi were dropped and replaced by Gianluca Vialli and Tore Andre Flo but, by the end of a frustrating evening, Flo had sustained two dislocated fingers and Vialli had suffered the indignity of being pulled off by his lieutenant, Graham Rix. He did not look pleased about it.

Dimitri Kharine started in goal for the first time since April and found himself called upon in each half to fist away good efforts by Marcus Lantz and Kenneth Storvik. Before that, Le Saux's pace down the left had briefly looked like compensating for Dan Petrescu's absence on the other flank. Vialli met one of his crosses with a thumping header, saved by Sven Andersson, who also held Vialli's shot from Albert Ferrer's centre.

In the main, though, Helsingborg, playing in the yellow and green Norwich colours once worn by their coach Age Hareide, stuck admirably to his game plan of stringing five players across midfield "to stop them playing through us".

When they did get forward, midway through the first half, they caused two scares in a minute, thanks to a foul for which Wise received a yellow card, putting both himself and his side under pressure the day after announcing that he would never be sent off again - "hopefully". From the free-kick, Arild Stavrum whipped over a low cross that eluded everyone and before the ball was cleared, Kharine had to beat out a shot from Lantz.

A home crowd numbering only 17,714 - half the regular gate - were growing restless by the time Brian Laudrup was fouled 20 yards out and Leboeuf's free-kick scorched passed Andersson.

The plot did not change after half-time, though the cast list did. Casiraghi, replacing the wounded Flo, struck a post with his first touch and Roberto di Matteo's header was nudged to safety.

Vialli said "I know we haven't been scoring too many goals of late but I am sure something is going to change."

For both teams the watch word will now be "remember Atvidaberg, 1971".

Chelsea (4-3-3): Kharine; Ferrer, Desailly, Leboeuf, Le Saux; Di Matteo, Wise, Babayaro (Poyet, 62); Vialli (Nicholls, 85), Flo (Casiraghi, 55), Laudrup. Substitutes not used: Lambourde, Newton, Morris, Hitchcock (gk).

Helsingborg (4-5-1): S Andersson; Nilsson, Jacobsson, Javanovski, Edman; Stavrum (Wahlstedt, 65), Wibran, Lantz, Storvik (Ljung, 90), Johansen (Johnsson, 73); Powell. Substitutes not used: C Andersson, Prica, Larsson (gk).

Referee: J A Roca (Spain).