Vialli turns tide

Leicester City 1 Watts 44 Chelsea 3 Vialli 48, Di Matteo 64, Hughe s 80 Attendance: 20,766
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The Independent Online
It Had been so far so good in Leicester's Premiership adventure but here they were reminded that their learning curve at this level is far from complete. For 45 minutes they looked capable of adding Chelsea's scalp to those of Spurs and Leeds. Then the Italian hitman struck.

A minute before half-time the defender Julian Watts put the finishing boot to a set-piece started by Garry Parker's free-kick that continued via the heads of Steve Walsh and Ian Marshall before Watts shot home from a few yards' range.

There was little doubt that Leicester deserved that lead. Chelsea had been feeble in their attempts to worry Kasey Keller in the home goal after Dan Petrescu's spectacular volley from a clever Dennis Wise corner in the third minute. Roberto Di Matteo also managed to hit the crossbar in the 31st minute, but it was Leicester who had looked the likelier lads.

Chelsea restarted with Gianluca Vialli, replacing 19-year-old Mark Nicholls, and, more surprisingly, Eddie Newton for the skipper Wise - and that withdrawal was tactical, not caused by injury. Within three minutes it had worked.

Vialli calmly brushed aside Spencer Prior's attempted challenge, spun beyond the defender and shot crisply beyond Keller into the net.

Fifteen minutes later the Italian spoon-fed his fellow countryman Di Matteo with a dream of a pass that travelled 40 yards to split the home defence. All it needed to become a goal was a confident final touch. And that is what it got.

But Vialli was not finished. Ten minutes from time he again bewildered the Leicester defence to clear the way to goal for Mark Hughes, who tucked away Chelsea's third and his own first Premiership goal of the season.

Just as decisive as Vialli's contribution was the addition of Newton's aggression and bite in midfield where Neil Lennon, Mustafa Izzet and Parker had had it most of their own way for the first 45 minutes.

While Chelsea were struggling to hold the fort in that first half Franck Leboeuf was immense in their defence. Ever incisive and fierce in the tackle, he seemed everywhere. And, in the dying minutes, he appeared in Leicester's six-yard box when a sweeping Chelsea attacking move just failed to reach him. English soccer is still a very long way from producing sweepers who can think and act like that.

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