Football: Vialli frustrated but not forgotten

Chelsea 3 Derby County 1
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The Independent Online
We had wondered whether he might get the chance to come off the bench and show Ruud Gullit what he could really do, but when Dennis Wise failed to reappear for the second half, it was the unknown, untried Paul Hughes rather than Gianluca Vialli who grabbed the moment,

The 20-year-old namesake of Chelsea's famous Welshman made his mark with a stylishly taken goal to round off a performance mature beyond his years.

It was not, however, a matter of Vialli being overlooked again since it was a natural substitution - a midfielder for a midfielder. On the contrary, he was very much remembered, at least by his team-mates and Wise in particular, who upon scoring Chelsea's first-half equaliser, made straight for the bench to hoist his jersey and reveal the T-shirt message: "Cheer up Luca, we love you."

As Gullit was quick to note afterwards, it said something for the team spirit within the camp despite his recent altercations with his illustrious signing from Serie A. This Chelsea performance will have done nothing to speed Vialli's return, earning praise from the Derby manager, Jim Smith, for the quality of their forward play.

At the scheming heart of this victory, almost inevitably, was Gianfranco Zola, whom Vialli had been the first to congratulate when he received his Player of the Month award before kick-off - further evidence of the team's esprit de corps. Smith had unwisely chosen not to man-mark Zola, as Nottingham Forest had crucially done last time out, though the little man needs barely any space at all to wreak the sort of havoc he did here.

What with his fellow striker Mark Hughes earning a vital penalty - tumbling under clumsy but minimal contact from the dreadlocked Matt Carbon - which Franck Leboeuf converted to give Chelsea the lead just before half-time, it would seem that Vialli might just as well pack his bags and head for home. Yet there were chances aplenty passed up in the first half-hour when the wrong man - wing-back Dan Petrescu - invariably found himself on the end of Zola's measured promptings rather than a natural finisher... like Vialli? Given how deep Zola plays, perhaps Gullit should persevere with the Hughes-Vialli-Zola triumvirate.

It took another foreigner, Derby's Aljosa Asanovic, to show them the way with an outrageous strike. One sensed the Derby fans knew something we didn't when they implored the Croatian midfielder to "shoot, shoot" upon winning a free-kick all of 35 yards from goal. He duly obliged with a left-footer which fairly hummed past Kevin Hitchcock.

The points, however, were comfortably in Chelsea's safe keeping by the time young Paul Hughes nicely rounded off his debut. Derby's substitute Christian Dailly had been harshly dismissed in double quick time for two bookable offences when two minutes later, in the 85th, Hughes further trampled on the visitors' feelings with two sweetly worked one-twos to score a goal which even Gullit described as "outstanding".

Apparently the young man's career had hitherto been held up by an injury to what Gullit described as his "ding-a-lings" and was only cured when a Dutch physiotherapist, who makes regular flying visits to the Bridge, clicked a troublesome jaw back into place. Now he is letting his football do the talking.

Goals: Asanovic (24) 0-1; Wise (36) 1-1; Leboeuf (pen, 43) 2-1; P Hughes (85) 3-1.

Chelsea (3-5-1-1): Hitchcock; Myers, Leboeuf, Sinclair; Petrescu, Wise (P Hughes, h-t), Burley (Johnsen, 62), Di Matteo, Newton; Zola; M Hughes. Substitutes not used: Vialli, Clement, Grodas (gk).

Derby County (4-4-2): Hoult; C Powell, Carbon (Dailly, 63), McGrath, Rowett; Laursen, Carsley, D Powell, Asanovic; Ward (Willems, 23), Sturridge. Substitutes not used: Van der Laan, Flynn, Taylor (gk).

Referee: G Poll (Tring).

Bookings: Chelsea Myers; Derby Carbon. Sending-off: Derby Dailly.

Man of the match: Zola.

Attendance: 28,293.