Football: Petrescu keeps Chelsea's hopes alive

CHAMPIONS' LEAGUE Romanian's composed finish enables Vialli's men to capitalise on dismissal of Galatasaray's goalkeeper
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The Independent Online
Chelsea 1 Galatasaray 0

DAN PETRESCU, who once combined with his Steaua Bucharest team- mate Gheorghe Hagi to knock Galatasaray out of a European Cup semi-final, got the better of his Romanian compatriot in a compelling Champions' League tie last night, scoring the goal which revived Chelsea's hopes of qualifying from Group H.

Assuming nine points to be a reasonable target, this first victory, achieved against a team whose goalkeeper was sent off in the first half, still leaves them less than half-way there, with four from three games. They cannot afford to lose what could well be a wild return match in Istanbul in three weeks' time and must win at home to Hertha Berlin. The Germans' draw in Milan was cheered by the home supporters on their way out of Stamford Bridge, but may prove to be a bad result for Chelsea, who have already been beaten in the new German capital.

"Nobody was expecting that result, so it's a very tight group now and anything can happen," said their manager, Gianluca Vialli. He was also forced to admit that a difficult game would have been even harder had Galatasaray's Brazilian international goalkeeper Claudio Taffarel not been dismissed with barely a third of it played.

Driven on by Hagi, they had proved to be formidable opposition, whose cause suffered badly when they were reduced to 10 men. Until then, the Turks lived up to their reputation for attacking verve. A total of 261 goals on the way to a hat-trick of domestic championships in successive seasons pointed to a positive enough style, which Vialli had suggested stemmed from the fact that so many Turkish teams had no greater ambition against them than to defend.

From the second minute, when Hagi whipped a low centre across the six- yard box, Chelsea were certainly forced on to the back foot more often than they wanted. While each side had 11 men on the pitch, the visitors made more chances, and better ones.

The ball might actually have crossed Chelsea's line in the seventh minute, after the Turks had earned the first corner of the night. A bullet of a header by Capone, the Brazilian central defender, forced Chris Sutton into a hurried attempt at a clearance that looked as if it could have crossed the line before Ed de Goey's thrilling one-handed save.

Even once Chelsea carved out an opportunity, Dennis Wise shooting at the goalkeeper as Sutton flicked on one of Gabriele Ambrosetti's less erratic crosses, it was immediately answered: Hagi sent Arif Erdem in to shoot fiercely past a post.

It was exciting stuff, interrupted briefly by the appearance of two Turks on the pitch with a large banner, presumably to make a political point. Wise hacked one of them down so enthusiastically that the referee felt obliged to warn him, while the other protester was kicked on his way down the tunnel by a Galatasaray substitute.

Otherwise, the Turks did not seem fazed and continued to push forward, with Hagi prompting and Hakan Sukur a clever and powerful front man. Their plans were seriously disrupted, however, by the loss of Taffarel in the 32nd minute. The goalkeeper was at least 10 yards outside his area when he prevented Petrescu bursting past him by handling, and the red card was a straightforward decision for the Dutch referee.

Withdrawing Arif, Hakan Sukur's partner in attack, Galatasaray naturally began to lose some momentum, which the home side exploited. Ambrosetti finally found his range for a series of crosses, one of which found Petrescu, whose header was pushed for a corner, which in turn led to a firm header from Sutton, held by the substitute goalkeeper, Mehmet Bolukbasi.

Five minutes into the second half, Mehmet denied Sutton with an instinctive stop after a Marcel Desailly header was deflected into his path. Ambrosetti was then replaced by Gustavo Poyet, whose first touch was a characteristic header from Gianfranco Zola's floated free-kick which flew fractionally wide.

There was no denying Petrescu, however, in the 55th minute. Sent away by a well-judged pass from Sutton, he was initially thwarted by Mehmet's block, but kept his composure superbly in turning back inside to score with his left foot.

Pushing Hagi well forward gave the Turks an outlet and a reason to believe they might salvage something, his shots from each side of the penalty area reminding Chelsea that they could take nothing for granted.

Zola might have made them safe before the anxious last few minutes, heading a straightforward chance wide, then failing when clean through, but he was unlucky with a curling free-kick that struck a post.

Desailly limped off in the second half and may not be fit for Sunday's set-to against Manchester United. It did seem an odd sense of priorities, however, to rest Didier Deschamps last night with Sunday in mind.

Chelsea (4-4-2): De Goey; Ferrer, Leboeuf, Desailly (Hogh, 62), Babayaro; Petrescu, Wise, Morris, Ambrosetti (Poyet, 52); Sutton (Flo, 84), Zola. Substitutes not used: Hitchcock (gk), Le Saux, Lambourde, Forssel.

Galatasaray (4-3-1-2): Taffarel; Fatih, Popescu, Capone, Hakan Unsal; Umit, Ergun, Okan (Emre, 71); Hagi (Hasan, 71); Arif (Mehmet, 33), Hakan Sukur. Substitutes not used: Bruno, Ahmet, Marcio.

Referee: D Jol (Netherlands).

Rangers triumph, page 30

Results and tables, page 31