Real Madrid 0
THE SCEPTICS might well have denigrated it as not so much the Super as the superfluous Cup; but Chelsea's victory at the Stade Louis II last night, by virtue of a late goal from the Uruguayan substitute Gustavo Poyet, will have done the spirit in Gianluca Vialli's team no harm whatsoever.
It was an exquisite quirk of timing that had seen Ruud Gullit feted by the Newcastle faithful on his accession to Kenny Dalglish's throne only hours before his former club played for the honour of "the champions of champions".
Chelsea chairman Ken Bates might well prefer to diminish the enigmatic Dutchman's role in the renaissance of his club, but even he cannot deny Gullit's lasting legacy in attracting Gianluca Vialli, to whom the Londoners made player-manager after his predecessor's acrimonious expulsion.
After a summer of lavish, but astute spending, Chelsea 98 is very much Vialli's own creation, and after an indifferent start to the domestic season he will have relished this test of his European Cup Winners against the seven-times champions of Europe. Real Madrid have much to prove, too, having finished by their standards an unacceptable fourth to Barcelona last season.
Twenty-seven years ago, when the teams met in Athens in the final of the European Cup-Winners' Cup, Chelsea emerged with their first European trophy. The second had been a long time coming; too long, according to their supporters, who are voracious for more, though whether this particular piece of silverware meant much to either side is uncertain, given the spirit of fraternity in which the game was played. Even the normally volatile Dennis Wise held out the hand of friendship after a particularly heavy challenge in the opening minutes.
The intrepid 2,000 or so supporters who followed their team from west London and who were outnumbered by the opposition fans were given little to enthuse about in the first half.
For all the selfless running of Gianfranco Zola and Pierluigi Casiraghi before the interval they were fed little from the Chelsea midfield to sate their appetite for action in front of goal. The only semblance of a threat came when Casiraghi just failed to stamp home Zola's cross. When the ball ran on in to midfield Celestine Babayaro's finish was wild. No doubt he will have blamed the surface. According to the Chelsea players this supposed showpiece was played on turf better suited to an agricultural showground.
However, it did not appear to trouble the Spanish team unduly. At least Guus Hiddink's men caused Ed De Goey some consternation in the 32nd minute, Fernando Hierro's wickedly struck 25-yard free-kick curling round the Chelsea wall and wide of the goalkeeper's right hand but rebounding off the post. Five minutes later Predrag Mijatovic, who scored Real's European Cup final winner against Juventus, eluded De Goey's dive but the angle proved too acute.
Chelsea were a transformed team after the interval. Frank Lebeouf, in commanding form in their rearguard, hit a post from outside the area, while Graeme Le Saux and Poyet himself all came close enough before the Uruguayan found the net with an effort of such venom that it gave Illgner no chance.
Zola, whose industry had contributed to the goal, was replaced by Brian Laudrup, making his first appearance in a Chelsea shirt since arriving from Rangers.
Chelsea (4-4-2): De Goey; Le Saux; Leboeuf; Duberry; Ferrer; Babayaro; Di Matteo (Poyet 62); Desailly; Wise; Casiraghi (Flo 89); Zola (Laudrup 82). Substitutes not used: Hitchcock, Laudrup, Poyet, Flo, Lambourde, Newton, Morris.
Real Madrid (4-4-2: Illgner; Panucci; Roberto Carlos; Hierro; Sanchis; Karembeu (Morientes 57); Seedorf; Redondo; Sabio; Mijatovic (Jarni 73); Raul. Substitutes not used: Contreras, Ivan Campo, Guti, Morientes, Jaime, Jarni, Fernando-Sanz.
Referee: Marc Batta (France)