Football: Zola's instant impact for Chelsea

Chelsea 1 VfB Stuttgart 0

GIANFRANCO ZOLA, the Azzurri's most precious gift to British football, sparked a rhapsody in blue in the Rasunda Stadium last night with a breathtaking goal which restored the Cup-Winners' Cup to Chelsea after a gap of 27 years.

With only 19 minutes remaining in a final long on endeavour but short on quality, Zola was summoned from the substitutes' bench. Ironically, his first touch gave the ball away, belying the reputation he has built since arriving at Stamford Bridge from Parma 18 months ago.

But the second, after an exquisite through ball by Dennis Wise had bisected the Stuttgart defence, saw him chest the ball down. In a blur of movement, his third touch buried the ball in the top left corner of Franz Wohlfahrt's net. Zola had been on the pitch barely 20 seconds, but it was long enough to add a European trophy to the Cola-Cola Cup which Chelsea won within a month of Gianluca Vialli replacing Ruud Gullit as their manager in February.

They deserved their triumph for the way they dominated the game after a nerve-racking period during the first half, even if it was tarnished slightly by the 84th minute dismissal of Dan Petruscu for a reckless challenge on Murat Yakin.

Yet, in the end, Stuttgart could not claim even a moral victory. In stoppage time, Gerhard Poschner followed Petrescu off after twice provoking yellow cards with outbreaks of dissent.

In truth, the celebrations which followed the final whistle were more entertaining than the match itself, hard though both defences had striven to encourage their opponents with slapdash marking and sloppy clearances.

No sooner had Wise reclaimed the trophy which Ron Harris lifted in Athens in 1971 than the entire Chelsea squad along with the club's coaching staff and sundry camp followers linked hands and sprinted to the four corners of the ground. On arriving, they threw themselves to the turf in the manner made famous by Jurgen Klinsmann.

Parts of the playing surface were so rutted and bereft of grass that formation diving was a calculated gamble. The pitch was certainly not suitable for such an auspicious occasion, despite an overnight trim which gave the incessant choruses of "10 men went to mow a meadow" an unusual relevance.

The setting could have provided a more vivid contrast with Chelsea's last visit to Scandinavia, at the blizzard-bound Norwegian outpost of Tromso in October. Instead of a snow-covered huddle, some 16,000 Chelsea fans kept up a barrage of noise on a balmy evening.

Zola, of course, has the kind of talent that would stand out in a snowdrift. Lately, however, the Italian has been struggling with a groin injury, which may have swayed Vialli to opt for the towering Tore Andre Flo as his attacking foil.

Flo worked selflessly, but in the absence of Chelsea's other recent casualty, Graeme Le Saux, there were seldom enough crosses which might have exploited his strength in the air. The Norwegian did send one header on to the roof of the net in the first half, though at that stage Chelsea were struggling against the mobility of Stuttgart's strikers and, in particular, the wiles of Krassimir Balakov.

With one pass, the Bulgarian playmaker released Fredi Bobic for an angled shot that was dragged wide. Balakov also forced a fine diving stop from Ed de Goey, but an even better save, where Wohlfahrt parried a thunderous volley by Gustavo Poyet just before half-time, signalled an upturn in Chelsea's fortunes.

Their centre-backs began to keep a tighter rein on Bobic and Jonathan Akpoborie, while Balakov faded into fitfulness. Danny Granville, the former Cambridge United full-back playing only his 17th game as understudy to Le Saux, exemplified Chelsea's growing conviction.

Even so, they struggled to turn territorial advantage into the breakthrough that they craved. It was a bolt from the blue, in more senses than one, when Zola announced his entrance with a touch of class that was as welcome as it was overdue.

A more mature player than Granville might have embellished the scoreline in the final seconds. With the Stuttgart keeper stranded in Chelsea's half, he appeared to lack the confidence to try a long-range shot into the unguarded goal.

Moments later, his abberation was forgotten as Chelsea's party began. Aston Villa will raise a glass, too, having squeezed into the Uefa Cup by virtue of Zola's coup de grace.

Chelsea (4-4-2): De Goey; Clarke, Duberry, Leboeuf, Granville; Petrescu, Wise, Di Matteo, Poyet (Newton, 80); Flo (Zola, 71), Vialli. Substitutes not used: M Hughes, Myers, Charvet, Morris, Hitchcock (gk).

VfB Stuttgart (1-2-5-2): Wohlfahrt; Yakin; Schneider (Endress, 55), Berthold; Haber (Djordjevic, 78), Soldo, Balakov, Poschner, Hagner (Ristic, 75); Bobic, Akpoborie. Substitutes to used: Becker, Lisztes, Stojkovski, Ziegler (gk).

Referee: S Braschi (Italy).

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Johnny Handle, Northumberland, Ted Relph, President of Lakeland Dialect Society, and Sid Calderbank, Lancashire, founder of the National Dialect Day
newsMeet the enthusiasts determined to stop them dying out
The data shows that the number of “unlawfully” large infant classes has doubled in the last 12 months alone
i100Mike Stuchbery, a teacher in Great Yarmouth, said he received abuse
Arts and Entertainment
The starship in Star Wars: The Force Awakens
filmsThe first glimpse of JJ Abrams' new film has been released online
Rio Ferdinand returns for QPR
sportRio Ferdinand returns from his three-game suspension today
The Speaker of the House will takes his turn as guest editor of the Today programme
arts + ents
Arts and Entertainment
St Peter’s Seminary in Cardross. Argyll, has remained derelict for more than 25 years
arts + ents

Watch the spoof Thanksgiving segment filmed for Live!
Billy Twelvetrees will start for England against Australia tomorrow with Owen Farrell dropping to the bench
rugbyEngland need a victory against Australia today
Arts and Entertainment
The cover of The Guest Cat – expect to see it everywhere
Tyson Fury poses outside the Imperial War Museum in south London ahead of his fight against Dereck Chisora
boxingAll British heavyweight clash gets underway on Saturday night
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Opilio Recruitment: QA Automation Engineer

£30k - 38k per year + Benefits: Opilio Recruitment: An award-winning consume...

Opilio Recruitment: UX & Design Specialist

£40k - 45k per year + Benefits: Opilio Recruitment: A fantastic opportunity ...

Opilio Recruitment: Publishing Application Support Analyst

£30k - 35k per year + Benefits: Opilio Recruitment: We’re currently re...

Opilio Recruitment: Digital Marketing Manager

£35k - 45k per year + benefits: Opilio Recruitment: A fantastic opportunity ...

Day In a Page

Homeless Veterans Christmas Appeal: ‘We give them hope. They come to us when no one else can help’

Christmas Appeal

Meet the charity giving homeless veterans hope – and who they turn to when no one else can help
Should doctors and patients learn to plan humane, happier endings rather than trying to prolong life?

Is it always right to try to prolong life?

Most of us would prefer to die in our own beds, with our families beside us. But, as a GP, Margaret McCartney sees too many end their days in a medicalised battle
Thomas Cook's outgoing boss Harriet Green got by on four hours sleep a night - is that what it takes for women to get to the top?

What does it take for women to get to the top?

Thomas Cook's outgoing boss Harriet Green got by on four hours sleep a night and told women they had to do more if they wanted to get on
Christmas jumper craze: Inside the UK factory behind this year's multicultural must-have

Knitting pretty: British Christmas Jumpers

Simmy Richman visits Jack Masters, the company behind this year's multicultural must-have
French chefs have launched a campaign to end violence in kitchens - should British restaurants follow suit?

French chefs campaign against bullying

A group of top chefs signed a manifesto against violence in kitchens following the sacking of a chef at a Paris restaurant for scalding his kitchen assistant with a white-hot spoon
Radio 4 to broadcast 10-hour War and Peace on New Year's Day as Controller warns of cuts

Just what you need on a New Year hangover...

Radio 4 to broadcast 10-hour adaptation of War and Peace on first day of 2015
Cuba set to stage its first US musical in 50 years

Cuba to stage first US musical in 50 years

Claire Allfree finds out if the new production of Rent will hit the right note in Havana
Christmas 2014: 10 best educational toys

Learn and play: 10 best educational toys

Of course you want them to have fun, but even better if they can learn at the same time
Paul Scholes column: I like Brendan Rodgers as a manager but Liverpool seem to be going backwards not forwards this season

Paul Scholes column

I like Brendan Rodgers as a manager but Liverpool seem to be going backwards not forwards this season
Lewis Moody column: Stuart Lancaster has made all the right calls – now England must deliver

Lewis Moody: Lancaster has made all the right calls – now England must deliver

So what must the red-rose do differently? They have to take the points on offer 
Cameron, Miliband and Clegg join forces for Homeless Veterans campaign

Cameron, Miliband and Clegg join forces for Homeless Veterans campaign

It's in all our interests to look after servicemen and women who fall on hard times, say party leaders
Millionaire Sol Campbell wades into wealthy backlash against Labour's mansion tax

Sol Campbell cries foul at Labour's mansion tax

The former England defender joins Myleene Klass, Griff Rhys Jones and Melvyn Bragg in criticising proposals
Nicolas Sarkozy returns: The ex-President is preparing to fight for the leadership of France's main opposition party – but will he win big enough?

Sarkozy returns

The ex-President is preparing to fight for the leadership of France's main opposition party – but will he win big enough?
Is the criticism of Ed Miliband a coded form of anti-Semitism?

Is the criticism of Miliband anti-Semitic?

Attacks on the Labour leader have coalesced around a sense that he is different, weird, a man apart. But is the criticism more sinister?
Ouija boards are the must-have gift this Christmas, fuelled by a schlock horror film

Ouija boards are the must-have festive gift

Simon Usborne explores the appeal - and mysteries - of a century-old parlour game