Football: Leicester still have work to do

Chelsea 2 Leicester City 1
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The Independent Online
MARK PIERSON

Chelsea 2 Leicester City 1

"It's no good playing in Europe next season if you're a First Division side." A fair point well made by the Leicester City manager, Martin O'Neill, but he knows that it would take a disaster of Titanic proportions for the Filbert Street ship to sink, despite going down to Chelsea for the third time this season.

O'Neill believes his Coca-Cola Cup winners still need another victory to guarantee their Premiership safety, even though they are five points clear of the relegation zone. "We've not progressed any further towards our goal after this result, we're still on 40 points and that is not enough," he said.

"We play West Ham on Wednesday and that has now become a monumental game for us. We have to get something out of that game. The other results haven't gone too badly for us, but 40 points is not enough mathematically and suddenly there are a few teams who are only one win away from us. Premiership survival is absolutely essential."

Certainly City seemed to have their memorable extra-time win over Middlesbrough on their minds as they allowed an understrength Chelsea to dominate the opening stages at Stamford Bridge and take the lead through Scott Minto after 13 minutes.

There was more purpose about the visitors after half-time and they equalised two minutes after the restart when Matt Elliott's shot was deflected into his own net by Frank Sinclair.

Both sides had opportunities to win the game but Mark Hughes had the final say when he headed home the winner three minutes after the rested Gianfranco Zola had entered the fray from the bench. Even then Leicester could have taken a point in the last minute when Ian Marshall hit the bar and Neil Lennon and Jamie Lawrence had efforts cleared off the line.

"The players won their first trophy on Wednesday so it was difficult to pick them up for this game," O'Neill added. "I couldn't fault my side for lack of effort."

Chelsea's manager Ruud Gullit was pleased to see his side win without ever playing at their best. "We played very soberly but we needed to after three League defeats in a row," he said. "Defensively we were very good and this is another side of the game that I want to see, maybe not to play so well but to win. We have to be realistic sometimes."

Gullit also revealed his desire to stay in charge of the FA Cup finalists: "I've not discussed my contract yet but I have a year to run and it's not important to talk about it at the moment. I'm happy here and don't want to leave.

"The most important thing when I arrived here was to have a challenge in my life despite what some people thought. I heard these stories that foreigners have come here only for the money but that wasn't the case. I'm happy that I took this challenge and there will be another one next year."

Goals: Minto (13) 1-0; Sincliar og (47) 1-1; M Hughes (73) 2-1.

Chelsea: Forrest; Petrescu, Sinclair, Leboeuf, Burley, Minto (P Hughes, h-t), Di Matteo, Morris (Zola, 71), Granville, M Hughes (Nicholls, 77), Vialli. Substitutes not used: Myers, Colgan (gk).

Leicester City: Poole; Grayson, Izzet (Lawrence, 85), Lennon, Claridge (Marshall, 79), Parker, Heskey, Kamark, Prior, Elliott, Guppy. Substitutes not used: Whitlow, Watts, Andrews (gk).

Referee: A Wilkie (Chester-le-Street).

Man of the match: Leboeuf. Attendance: 27,723.

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