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Wednesday, May 13, 1998 Published at 22:35 GMT 23:35 UK



Sport: Football

Zola's first kick is the sweetest for Chelsea
image: [ A familiar sight - Chelsea with their third trophy in twelve months ]
A familiar sight - Chelsea with their third trophy in twelve months

Gianfranco Zola was the hero as Chelsea won the European Cup Winners' Cup 1-0 against Stuttgart in Stockholm.

He had been on the pitch for barely 30 seconds when Dennis Wise clipped the ball into space down the Chelsea left.


A breathless Gianluca Vialli speaks to the BBC's Ray Stubbs seconds after the final whistle
At once, Zola was away, skating clear of the Stuttgart back line as he sped into the box.

As goalkeeper Franz Wohlfahrt came off his line, Zola unleashed a guided missile with his right foot that screamed past the Austrian and into the roof of the net.

It was Zola's fourth goal in the competition and his 12th of the season.


[ image: Roberto Di Matteo tackles Stuttgart midfielder Balakov - and the pitch]
Roberto Di Matteo tackles Stuttgart midfielder Balakov - and the pitch
From the start, the match proved to be a difficult one for all the players because of the condition of the pitch and it looked for a long time as though no-one would score.

Stuttgart wasted a number of chances with Dennis Wise having Chelsea's best.

He ended the first half with a screaming volley a fraction wide - although the flag was already up.

Then in the second, Flo was allowed to control with his hand before whipping in a cross from the left. Petrescu and Vialli linked, and Wise's shot shaved the upright.

Zola seals 'hero' status


Radio Five Live's Ron Jones reports from Stockholm (56")
Zola was sent on for Flo in the 70th minute and Chelsea were one up in the 71st.

It was the sort of goal that has made Zola a hero figure in west London, even if he will probably not be in the Italian World Cup squad this summer.

Although there were no more goals there was plenty of drama including two sendings-off.

Dan Petrescu was dismissed for a bad tackle, as was Gerrard Poschner of Stuttgart, apparently for foul and abusive language.


[ image: Vialli has won more trophies in half a season than most managers obtain in their career]
Vialli has won more trophies in half a season than most managers obtain in their career
Afterwards player-manager Gianluca Vialli, who was on the pitch at the time, paid tribute to Zola and assistant boss Graham Rix, who was the man who decided it was time to introduce the Italian striker.

"It was `Ricco'. He had a feeling it was right, so he takes the credit.

"But the credit has to be shared between all the chaps because everybody did great tonight - and I am over the moon," said Vialli.

The result means that Vialli has won two major trophies in his first few months of coaching since taking over from Ruud Gullit.

Chelsea won the FA Cup last season and the Coca-Cola Cup in March.

He immediately set his sights on wresting the English Premiership title away from Arsenal next season.


[ image: Gianfranco Zola - from substitute to goalscorer in about a minute]
Gianfranco Zola - from substitute to goalscorer in about a minute
"The next step will be the Premier League, fingers crossed," he said.

"I am still the player-manager and I have to be one next season. We are very happy to win, but we do not want to stop here.

"We want to keep improving and next season we will start trying to win the Premier League, which is our aim now."

The result will be celebrated in Birmingham as much as in London, since it confirms Aston Villa's qualification for next year's UEFA cup.
 





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