Late Lee grabs his moment

Chelsea 1 Vialli 51 Nottingham Forest 1 Lee 90 Attendance: 27, 673
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The Independent Online
Ruud Gullit had been warning Chelsea, and their fans, that thoughts of the Premiership title were probably a couple of seasons premature. If they concede last-minute goals after squandering as many chances as they created at Stamford Bridge yesterday, this season will not even be the encouraging experience that their early performances suggested.

A last-minute goal by Forest's substitute Jason Lee was "just so frustrating", Gullit said. He was too diplomatic to add the obvious: that it put Forest in a much better light than their negative football deserved. Both teams needed to redeem themselves after midweek Coca-Cola Cup embarrassments against clubs far below their station, but for Forest it was also a matter of urgently doing something about the expanding feeling that they are coming off the rails.

Gullit had complained about Chelsea's lack of passion against Blackpool, who had beaten them 3-1, or was it that they were still suffering inferiority worries after so painfully capitulating to Liverpool a few days before? As for Frank Clark, he had kept his thoughts to himself after Forest struggled against Wycombe Wanderers, but was clearly accepting that this was going to be a long, troublesome season on and off the pitch because a takeover is expected before the new year.

Recent experience had obviously steeled Gianluca Vialli into a more positive attitude. He had clipped the crossbar with an eighth-minute shot from Roberto Di Matteo's inviting long pass and had Mark Crossley scuffling to block another two minutes later. Forest relied on Bryan Roy's pace to respond, but getting sufficient possession to supply him was a considerable problem since Frank Leboeuf generally had his measure, as he does with most players in the Premiership.

Only when Leboeuf and the rest of the defence assumed that a neat diagonal pass from Roy had found Dean Saunders in an offside position were Chelsea seriously threatened. Saunders was not flagged and did the right thing in trying to chip the ball over the advancing Kevin Hitchcock, but he failed to raise the ball high enough. Hitchcock grabbed it and sent Chelsea off on another of what had become a tide of unfulfilled attacks including a period late in the first half when the Forest goal was permanently under siege.

Half a dozen chances, half a dozen misses, so Chelsea had only their own negligence to blame. By losing Roy to a muscle pull, Forest forfeited breakaway pace and substituted it with Lee's strength, but eventually it was Vialli's finishing power that punished their flat defence. Picking up a move well constructed by Di Matteo and a pass from Dennis Wise, Vialli strode parallel with goal before slamming in his shot.

If Vialli was satisfied, Mark Hughes remained frustrated in a game that offered him any number of openings. Midway through the second he met Craig Burley's cross with what had the makings of a spectacular volley but ended seeing Crossley deflecting it away.

Gullit's demand for passion was in part answered but little in this performance told that he was in any way pessimistic in warning against undue hope that Chelsea will fulfil the expectations of those who want instant success. And that was confirmed when they lost concentration in the last minute as Ian Woan's long ball across the face of the penalty area was met by Lee, who lifted it over Hitchcock.