Before the match at Stamford Bridge yesterday Zola received the Premiership Player of the Month award, and during it fully vindicated the panel's decision. His delightful exhibition was replete with devious running and artful, accurate passing. He was allowed to roam without being specifically marked and his contribution was perhaps the most alluring aspect of what in part was an outstanding display by Chelsea. Not that this could prevent their falling behind. The goal was stunning. Aljosa Asanovic was fouled some 35 yards from goal and his subsequent free-kick, which swerved at speed only a yard above ground, left the goalkeeper Kevin Hitchcock groping at air. Until then there had been mild disparagement of Asanovic for wearing gloves on a mild day. With a left-foot kick of that strength, he can wear a tutu if he wants.
Chelsea equalised within 10 minutes and before half-time were ahead. The first goal arrived after a Mark Hughes pass to Zola, whose shot from the right hit the inside of the far post. Dennis Wise struck home the rebound, giving him the chance to show off his vest which read: "Cheer up Luca, we love you", a reference to Italian Vialli's disenchantment.
A minute before the break Zola produced a superb ball to Hughes on the edge of the area. The forward fell under Matt Carbon's challenge and referee Graham Poll gave a penalty, from which Franck Leboeuf scored. It looked harsh but the combination of Hughes and Poll can be lethal for defenders who make contact with opposition players in the box.
Chelsea were intermittently fluent in the second half, Derby chased the game with purpose. But after Christian Dailly was sent off Chelsea increased their lead, with substitute Paul Hughes romping onto a through ball which he stroked home.Reuse content