1997/98: Sub Zola inspires Chelsea

Twenty-seven years after beating Real Madrid CF, Chelsea FC won the UEFA Cup Winners' Cup for the second time, 1-0 against VfB Stuttgart in Stockholm.

Gianfranco Zola helps Chelsea captain Dennis Wise lift the trophy
Gianfranco Zola helps Chelsea captain Dennis Wise lift the trophy ©Getty Images

Chelsea FC 1-0 VfB Stuttgart
Råsunda Stadium, Stockholm

Twenty-seven years after defeating Real Madrid CF in Athens to lift the UEFA Cup Winners’ Cup, Chelsea FC defeated VfB Stuttgart by a solitary goal in Stockholm to claim the trophy for a second time. Substitute Gianfranco Zola was the hero for Chelsea, scoring the only goal on his return from injury with a stunning half-volley seconds after coming on in the 69th minute.

Tromsø test
The English FA Cup winners breezed through the first round against ŠK Slovan Bratislava 4-0 on aggregate, but generally blew hot and cold en route to the final. Nowhere was it colder than in the Norwegian town of Tromsø near the Arctic Circle where Chelsea were drawn to play in the second round. Chelsea’s request for the game to be called off was rejected and Tromsø IL made the most of the difficult conditions to record a memorable 3-2 victory during a heavy snow storm. With the weather more to Chelsea’s liking back in London, though, Ruud Gullit’s they stormed to a 7-1 victory to advance 9-4 on aggregate.

Betis beaten
By the time the competition resumed for the quarter-finals in March Gullit had been replaced at the helm by Gianluca Vialli as player-manager. Vialli had won the competition with UC Sampdoria in 1990 and he was soon back in his stride here as a pair of early goals from Tore André Flo in Seville laid the foundations for a 5-2 aggregate victory over Real Betis Balompié. Chelsea’s run, however, looked likely to end at the last four after Vicenza Calcio, 1-0 winners of the first leg at home, went ahead in the return at Stamford Bridge. Chelsea, however, came storming back with Gustavo Poyet, Gianfranco Zola and Mark Hughes lifting Chelsea to a 3-1 win on the night and a 5-2 aggregate victory.

Stuttgart through
Chelsea were up against VfB Stuttgart in final, the German side, inspired by the likes of midfielders Krassimir Balakov and Murat Yakin and striker Fredi Bobic, having seen off ÍBV Vestmannæyjar, Germinal Beerschot, SK Slavia Praha and FC Lokomotiv Moskva to reach the showpiece. From the start, it looked like it would take one moment of inspiration to separate the sides, who seemed stymied by the high stakes. Chelsea took the initiative early on, as they sought to expose the uncertainty in the Stuttgart defence caused by the suspensions of Frank Verlaat and Martin Spanring. One flowing move after five minutes set up Roberto Di Matteo, who shot wide when well-placed.

Bobic impresses
Both teams had came into the final with a reputation for attacking football but vulnerable defences. Chelsea's was tested first as Bobic was narrowly off-target in the 12th and 14 minutes. Balakov then broke free after 19 minutes, only to be denied by a fine stop from Ed De Goey. Chelsea created some chances of their own just before half-time, with Gustavo Poyet bringing a save from Franz Wohlfahrt and Dennis Wise volleying narrowly wide. They came closer to breaking the deadlock immediately after the interval when another Wise shot shaved the post. Full-back Danny Granville had a shot well saved by the increasingly active Wohlfahrt after 58 minutes.

Inspired change
The real catalyst for the Chelsea breakthrough came from Chelsea assistant manager Graham Rix, who introduced Zola after 69 minutes. Zola had been left out of the starting line-up due to a groin strain, but he quickly set about making up for lost time. Racing on to Dennis Wise's defence-splitting pass, he unleashed a spectacular shot that flew straight into the top corner. Chelsea's subsequent rearguard action received a serious blow with the dismissal of Dan Petrescu after 84 minutes, but Stuttgart failed to exploit their numerical advantage, and they too finished with ten men when Gerhard Poschner was sent off in injury time. For Vialli, a victor as a player in 1990, had won the trophy again three months after trying his hand as a coach.

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