Football: Liverpool fold as Hughes sparks Chelsea onslaught
Chelsea 4 Liverpool 2
Hughes' day had had the most unpromising of beginnings. Left out of the starting line-up, he sat on the bench in growing frustration as Liverpool, playing typically silky football, scored twice in the first 21 minutes and held the lead until half-time.
Then Hughes was unleashed. The atmosphere was already simmering - adding Hughes was like putting a lighted match into a powderkeg. Chelsea exploded with three goals in 13 minutes, the first scored by Hughes, the second made by him. The third came from Gianluca Vialli whose selection ahead of Hughes had, at half-time, seemed mistaken. With 15 minutes left Vialli added a fourth and Chelsea were through to a fifth-round tie at Leicester City.
In the acres of football that now cover the television landscape there occasionally comes a match which justifies all the pre-kick-off hype. This was one of those matches. It had everything bar a penalty and a sending off - and there could have been a few of those had referee Steve Dunn not kept calm amid the maelstrom.
There was bewitching skill from nimble feet and quick minds, passion and strength, good tackles, great saves, stunning goals and, inevitably, a few errors. The work-rate was astounding. Players like Steve McManaman and Robbie Fowler were regularly seen helping out in defence. It was an intoxicating mix of the best of the British game and the sheen of the Continental, and it was not only the foreigners who were skilful or the British who worked hard. You could not take your eyes off it. The Spice Girls could have streaked across the deserted Shed End unnoticed.
When the dust settled, a teeming Stamford Bridge emptied and the television nation switched on the kettle, Liverpool were left to contemplate 17 days which had seen them tumble out of two cup competitions. Now, more than ever, they must maintain the League challenge.
Chelsea, meanwhile, have served notice that they have resilience to go with their skill. The team spirit, while not on a par with Wimbledon, is a far richer brew than usually associated with the club. Yet Leicester will approach the fifth round with hope. Chelsea are not yet as formidable on the road as at the Bridge.
One weakness, the absence of Michael Duberry, was quickly exposed yesterday. Jason Mc- Ateer's cross from the right seemed innocuous but Frank Sinclair missed his jump, the ball came to Stig Inge Bjornebye whose cross-shot was touched in by Robbie Fowler.
Eleven minutes later Gianfranco Zola played a bad square pass to Eddie Newton, his touch betrayed him and released Stan Collymore. Nil-two and, apparently, all over. Liverpool had not lost from a two-goal lead for 33 years.
Chelsea needed a goal and, after half an hour, Vialli should have provided it but shot over. A minute later Fowler should have sealed the game for Liverpool but headed past. McManaman also wasted a good chance but it seemed not to matter.
Enter the Welsh dragon, breathing fire. Liverpool, regular victims during his career, were unnerved. Four minutes later he held the ball up then turned in characteristic fashion to shoot low into the net. Liverpool now looked as if they had encountered a snarling dog and Chelsea, smelling their fear, went for the jugular.
Roberto di Matteo, pushed forward to harry John Barnes, had one shot saved then another blocked. Hughes was able to toe that to Zola who bent a rocket of a shot past David James.
The game see-sawed, Fowler and Zola both missing chances, before Vialli came in from the cold. As Zola found Dan Petrescu he glided in from the wing. The Romanian spotted his run, the pass and execution were perfect.
James made three excellent saves from Di Matteo and Villia but Chelsea's Azzurri would not be denied. Vialli won a free-kick on the right, Zola floated it in and Vialli, unchallenged, headed past James.
Chelsea's celebrations mirrored Newcastle's after the 5-0 eclipse of Manchester United. Newcastle did not win again for weeks; fortunately Chelsea have a few weeks to recover before the next round.
Goals: Fowler (10) 0-1; Collymore (21) 0-2; Hughes (49) 1-2; Zola (58) 2-2; Vialli (62) 3-2; Vialli (75) 4-2.
Chelsea (3-5-2): Hitchcock; Sinclair, Leboeuf, Clarke; Petrescu, Wise, Newton, Di Matteo, Minto (M Hughes, h-t); Zola, Vialli. Substitutes not used: P Hughes, Grodas (gk).
Liverpool (3-5-2): James; Kvarme, Wright, Matteo; McAteer, Redknapp, Barnes, McManaman, Bjornebye (Berger, 73); Collymore, Fowler. Substitutes not used: Carragher, Warner (gk).
Referee: S Dunn (Bristol).
Bookings: Chelsea: Sinclair, Wise. Liverpool: Fowler, Collymore.
Man of the match: M Hughes.
Latest in Sport
Inside Lines: Others must take lead from Amir Khan’s courage
Manchester United injury news: Angel Di Maria unlikely to face Spurs as Marouane Fellaini's 'mystery illness' turns out to be rib injury
Arsenal vs QPR player ratings: Could anyone outshine new Gunners hero Alexis Sanchez and who was worse than villain Olivier Giroud?
Manchester City team news: Manuel Pellegrini hopes to have Vincent Kompany back for Burnley visit but hopes not to risk Stevan Jovetic
Neil Warnock sacked: Tim Sherwood fits role at Crystal Palace
- 1 The political parties aren't all the same – which means 2015 will be a 'big-choice' election
- 2 President of Argentina adopts Jewish godson to 'stop him turning into a werewolf'
- 3 ALS ice bucket challenge co-founder Corey Griffin drowns, aged 27
- 4 The 'Black Museum': After 150 years, public set to see exhibits from police’s grisly crime museum
British actor Idris Elba cannot star as James Bond because he is black, says shock jock Rush Limbaugh
Germany anti-Islam protests: 17,000 march on Dresden against 'Islamification of the West'
Ukip member gets into Christmas spirit with Union Flag plea to Santa 'for our country back'
Immigrants make UK racist, says Ukip councillor Trevor Shonk
BBC director Danny Cohen: Rising UK antisemitism makes me feel more uncomfortable than ever
Katie Hopkins speaks out on childhood obesity: 'Parents of fat children should be prosecuted for child cruelty'
Not specified: Selby Jennings: VP/SVP Credit Quant Top tier investment bank i...
£40000 - £43000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: Senior Marketing Executiv...
£40000 - £43000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: An international organisa...
£25000 - £30000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Internal Recruiter -Rugby, Warwicksh...