Football: Vialli's humiliation of young Gunners

Arsenal 0 Chelsea 5
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The Independent Online
WHAT GOES around comes around, as they say, and Chelsea have waited a long time to reap the benefits of David Elleray's refereeing. Four years ago in the FA Cup final against Manchester United the Harrow official awarded United a dubious penalty and Chelsea crashed to a 4-0 defeat.

This time Elleray awarded a penalty to Chelsea and after that, the result was never in doubt. Incredibly, it was Arsenal's worst home defeat for 73 years, and Chelsea's biggest victory over their north London rivals in 90 years of competitive fixtures between the two clubs.

Despite the crushing defeat, Arsene Wenger, the Arsenal manager, was quick to defend his young side afterwards. "Nothing went right for us on the night," he said. "The penalty that gave Chelsea their first goal was ridiculous. Gilles Grimandi played the ball. I've seen it again on television and still think the same.

"The final score was a bit too heavy, but I have no regrets about the team I fielded. You find out about players. Some show their limits but others you see are able to come on."

His Chelsea counterpart, Gianluca Vialli, was clearly still feeling the effects of a sombre afternoon spent with his injured striker, Pierluigi Casiraghi, who could be out for the rest of the season after suffering knee ligament injuries in Sunday's 1-1 draw at West Ham. "Luca is feeling too upset to speak," Chelsea's assistant manager, Gwyn Williams, said. "He wants to dedicate this result to [Casiraghi]."

The crucial moment came after 34 minutes when Chelsea had survived several scares themselves and despite a stronger line-up on paper they were not looking the stronger on the pitch. Yet 60 seconds after Alex Manninger had pulled off a smart save with one hand from Tore Andre Flo he was facing Franck Leboeuf from the penalty spot. Gustavo Poyet had broken through from the midfield and, although Grimandi's tackle in the area looked perfectly timed, Elleray gave the penalty and Leboeuf converted it with ease.

Arsenal nearly gave the perfect response when, eight minutes later, Stephen Hughes connected with a corner, only to see his shot kicked off the line by Dan Petrescu.

That was Arsenal's last serious interest in this tie, as four minutes after the break, Chelsea scored again. Vialli beat the offside trap and, as Manninger and Grimandi got in each other's way, the Italian was left with an empty net. 15 minutes later Chelsea were three goals to the good. Flo worked his way down to the by-line and passed back to Poyet, who finished with power.

With Arsenal in pieces, Chelsea quickly added another. Poyet again was central to the move as he volleyed the ball to Vialli, who drilled the ball in. Chelsea still found time to add a fifth, as Poyet skipped through and scooped in his second.

Both teams continued with their policy of fielding near-second-string teams for this competition, although Chelsea still fielded Lebo euf and Roberto Di Matteo, while Vialli played himself in attack with Flo. Arsenal's reserves are not quite so strong but they did recall Dennis Bergkamp, who was fit again after a three-game absence.

However, the Dutchman showed only glimpses of his technique as his lack of match fitness was evident, and he was substituted on the hour. Several times his control let him down but he came close after 12 minutes with a low shot that Kharine did well to push away.

Still Chelsea's breakthrough seemed unlikely, and only four minutes before Leboeuf's penalty Patrick Ljungberg came close to scoring one of the goals of the season as he weaved through the Chelsea defence, only for the ball to run away from him as he went to shoot.

Arsenal (4-4-2): Manninger; Vivas, Upson, Grimandi, Grondin; Boa Morte, Ljungberg, Hughes, Garde (Mendez, 46); Bergkamp (Caballero, 60), Wreh. Substitutes not used: Cole, Vernazza, Lukic (gk).

Chelsea (4-4-2): Kharine; Petrescu, Leboeuf (Lambourde, 82), Poyet, Babayaro; Goldbaek (Percassi, 70), Duberry, Di Matteo, Nicholls (Clement, 70); Flo, Vialli. Substitutes not used: Zola, Hitchcock (gk).

Referee: D Elleray (Harrow-on-the-Hill).

Photograph, more reports, page 30