Football: Stuart's cavalier run pulls Chelsea round

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The Independent Online
Sheffield Wednesday. . . . . . 3

Chelsea . . . . . . . . . . . .3

AT THE final whistle the players of both teams fell into each others' arms, every ounce of energy drained after a pulsating contest full of enterprise and incident.

Wednesday dominated the first half, went two up, but fell behind to a revitalised Blues, who scored one of the goals of the season through Graham Stuart's delightful dribble. In a fluctuating finale the hosts finally restored parity through Danny Wilson's close-range strike nine minutes from time.

Chelsea suffered a desperate start as Wednesday played them off the park. David Hirst engineered the breakthrough in the 26th minute, chesting the ball down before firing across the face of the box. Williams appeared to get the final touch but Hirst was credited with his third of the season.

His fourth, 10 minutes later, also had an element of contention about it. The burly striker muscled his way into the area at speed and fell, somewhat dramatically, under Steve Clarke's over-weighty challenge. There was no argument with Hirst's penalty, driven solidly past Beasant.

Chelsea were a different proposition after the break. 'They were crucifying us down the left,' Ian Porterfield, the visitors' manager, said. 'So we tightened that up.' With Nigel Worthington pegged back Chelsea probed forward and were rewarded within three minutes. Gareth Hall's long free kick was met majestically by Paul Elliott, Vinnie Jones applying the final touch. Nine minutes later came what Porterfield called 'one of the best goals you will ever see'.

Wednesday's defenders certainly did not see it. Stuart started on the half-way line and set off confidently towards Chris Woods's net, Robert Fleck and Mick Harford dragged the defence wide for Stuart to slip through and beat three lazy challenges, and then the England keeper. 'It was a goal in a million,' Stuart said.

Chelsea's celebrations intensified in the 64th minute when Fleck set up Eddie Newton, the young winger scoring easily on his full debut. The last half-hour was classic end to end, Wednesday pulling level when Trevor Francis - on to raise morale - nutmegged Clarke and crossed from the byline towards Hirst, whose header was turned in by Wilson.

Sheffield Wednesday: C Woods; R Nilsson, P King (T Francis, 68 min), C Palmer, N Pearson, P Warhurst, J Harkes (D Wilson, 77 min), C Bart-Williams, D Hirst, P Williams, N Worthington. Sub not used: M Beresford (gk). Player/manger: T Francis.

Chelsea: D Beasant; S Clarke, G Hall, V Jones, P Elliott, M Donaghy, G Stuart, R Fleck, M Harford (J Allon, 77 min), A Townsend, E Newton. Subs not used: D Matthew, K Hitchcock (gk). Manager: I Porterfield.

Referee: L Bilkes (Mossley).

Goals: Hirst (1-0, 26 min); Hirst pen (2-0, 36 min); Jones (2-1, 48 min); Stuart (2-2, 58 min); Newton (2-3, 64 min); Wilson (3-3, 81 min).