Football: Vialli sets the right example

Sheffield Wednesday 0 Chelsea 1
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CONVEYED FROM Chelsea's dressing-room, the joke was about the decisive effect of Roberto Di Matteo's bottle blond fashion statement. "The hair-style made it easy for Bjarne [Goldbaek] to pick him out," Gianluca Vialli chuckled.

Relief coupled with humour. With just five minutes left, Vialli was thinking about further strain on Chelsea's resources when Di Matteo met Goldbaek's deep centre with a firm header, leaving the Sheffield Wednesday supporters to reflect on their team's curious lack of passion in this 1-0 defeat at Chelsea.

Maybe Danny Wilson's team held Chelsea in too much respect or is it that a struggle to survive in the Premiership influences their disposition?

Still competing on three fronts Chelsea were never as close to going out of the FA Cup as in the previous round against Oxford United, which says something about Sheffield Wednesday's attitude.

If blood and thunder is not how Wilson likes to go about things, a touch of it might have done more to counter Chelsea's technical superiority.

A pertinent comparison could also be drawn between the Hillsborough darling Benito Carbone and his ageing compatriot Vialli. The Chelsea player-manager is coming to the end of his days on the field and it often shows, but Carbone could take a lesson in commitment from him.

People who argue that Carbone is not given enough credit (much has been made of this in print locally) overlook the fitful nature of the Italian's contribution. At times quite brilliant, Carbone cannot avoid doubts about overall application. If behind most of the good things Sheffield Wednesday managed he was not involved enough to cause Chelsea more problems than Leboeuf and Marcel Desailly could handle.

Desailly's hint that a taste for a less robust form of football may lead him to leave Chelsea could hardly have been justified by his experience in the game. A few scrambles in the penalty area, but otherwise little to suggest that life could be a lot more comfortable.

Instead, Chelsea settled for confident possession troubled only when another example of Graham Le Saux's wayward positioning enabled Carbone to reach a Dejan Stefanovic centre.

That and a speculative long- range effort from Wim Jonk was all that came from Sheffield Wednesday until Wilson got to his players at half- time.

Di Matteo's introduction for the injured Albert Ferrer after 30 minutes finally identified him as the hitherto unrecognisable blond on Chelsea's bench.

With time drawing on and eager to avoid fixture congestion Chelsea went for width, sending on Goldbaek for Morris. "It was the only time in the match when they got behind us," Wilson said when speaking of the move that led to Chelsea reaching the sixth round. "We lost our concentration and that was it."

Wilson also said that it was better to have lost in the cup than in the League which probably explains his team's tentative performance. Time was when things were different, but football today is about financial security.

As for Di Matteo's new look, Vialli was philosophical. "Players are young men who want to indulge themselves," he said. "It makes no difference to me as long as they play well." And score the winner in an FA cup tie.

Goal: Di Matteo (85) 0-1.

Sheffield Wednesday (4-4-2): Pressman; Atherton, Thome, Walker, Stefanovic; Alexandersson, Sonner (Agogo, 90), Jonk, Rudi (Briscoe, 84); Booth, Carbone. Substitutes not used: Newsome, Clarke, Humphreys.

Chelsea (4-4-2): De Goey; Ferrer (Di Matteo,30), Desailly, Leboeuf, Le Saux; Petrescu, Wise, Morris (Goldbaek,81), Babayaro; Zola, Vialli. Substitutes not used: Hitchcock, Terry, Forssell.

Referee: S Dunn (Bristol).

Bookings: Sheff Wed: Atherton.

Man of the match: Leboeuf.

Attendance: 29,410.