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Thursday, August 12, 1999 Published at 10:28 GMT 11:28 UK

Sport: Football

Chelsea relief after late goal feast

Poyet saw a hatful of shots saved before hitting Chelsea's second

Chelsea 3-0 Skonto Riga

Three late goals in the space of eight minutes have given Gianluca Vialli's men a near-certain place into the European Champion's League.

The BBC's John Murray: "The scoreline by no means reflects the story"
But it looked as though it was not to be the Londoners' night as ten-men Skonto Riga somehow held out for nearly 80 minutes under wave after wave of Chelsea firepower.

Substitute Celestine Babayaro finally found the net with Chelsea's 25th shot of the night, the relief lifted like a cloud from Stamford Bridge.

[ image: Riga played with ten-men for most of the match]
Riga played with ten-men for most of the match
Gustavo Poyet, who had seen a trio of chances blocked on the line in the first half, netted a minute later.

And when Chris Sutton finally broke his Chelsea duck six minutes from time to add a third, the Blues path to the Champions League looked suddenly clear.

Riga must win by four goals in the return leg on August 25 to prevent Chelsea from progressing to the Champions League group stage.

Although he did not score and was substituted with the score nil-nil, Zola headed the Chelsea onslaught. he was at his best, twisting and turning, chipping and slipping any number of passes which ripped open the Latvian defence.

Rampant Blues

Chelsea were rampant, creating eight clear-cut chances in the first-half alone which were either squandered or blocked by staunch Riga defending.

Gianluca Vialli talks about Sutton's goal
The Latvian Champions, who have won their domestic league every year since 1993 and have ten of the national side in their squad, looked threatening on the break.

But only until left-back Andrejs Tereskinas was sent-off after 33 minutes for kicking out at Frank Leboeuf.

After that Skonto had only the hard-running David Chaladze their lone striker while everybody else manned the trenches.

Goal-shy Sutton

Sutton should have scored three and could have scored more by half-time, Chelsea's 10m summer signing looking clumsy in front of goal under the burden of his record price tag.

[ image: It looked like being one of those nights]
It looked like being one of those nights
Dennis Wise saw a shot graze the upright.

Poyet put an early easy header wide and then saw two shots cleared off the line, notably when keeper Alex Kolinko somehow managed to deflect a fierce point-blank shot onto the floor where it bounced over the bar.

With 25 minutes to go and the pressure to score growing more desperate, Vialli brought on Celestine Babyaro and Tore Andre Flo for Zola and Didier Deschamps.

Flying save

Flo threw away yet another chance, his header saved by the flying Kolinko, and it looked to be one of those nights for Chelsea.

But with thirteen minutes to go Le Saux played yet another dangerous ball into the Riga box. Flo chested it neatly down for Babayaro to fire home and break the deadlock.

The burden lifted, the floodgates opened and Chelsea scored two more in quick succession, Poyet curling a left foot shot past the brave Kolinko and Sutton willing a deflected shot past the Latvian keeper.

Teams: Chelsea: De Goey, Ferrer, Desailly, Leboeuf, Le Saux, Petrescu, Wise, Deschamps ( Babayaro 65), Poyet, Sutton, Zola ( Flo 65). Subs: Hogh, Goldbaek, Hitchcock, Nicholls, Forssell. Skonto Riga: Kolinko, Laizans, Silagadze, Zemlinsky, Tereskinas, Bleidelis, Astafjevs, Rekhviashvili, Rubins, Chaladze, Miholaps (Menteshashvili 78). Subs: Stephnous, Blagonabezdins, Babichev, Piedels, Kolesnicenko, Olsanskis.

Referee: U Meier (Switzerland)

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