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Saturday, February 27, 1999 Published at 19:51 GMT

Blues stay in touch

Agony and ecstasy: Leboeuf went off after scoring Chelsea's opener

Chelsea 2-1 Liverpool

Frank Leboeuf and Bjarne Goldbaek scored the goals as Chelsea stayed on the heels of league leaders Manchester United with an important home victory.

BBC Radio 5 Live's Mike Ingham reports from Stamford Bridge
Liverpool have not won at Stamford Bridge for 10 years and found themselves behind early on as Lebouef shrugged off a recent penalty miss by firing home from the spot.

The Merseysiders gave the ball away far too often in the first half and their defence looked all at sea, with Goldbaek punishing some slack marking before the break.

Chelsea should have made the game safe after the break and had to endure an anxious last 10 minutes after England's Michael Owen had reduced the deficit.

Flo back in action

Both sides showed changes with Tore Andre Flo making his first start of 1999 for Chelsea, who also welcomed back Graeme Le Saux and Roberto di Matteo.

Liverpool boss left Steve McManaman and Steve Staunton out of his line-up, which saw the return of England midfielder Paul Ince and Dominic Matteo.

[ image: Dan Petrescu shields the ball from Patrik Berger]
Dan Petrescu shields the ball from Patrik Berger
Manager Gerard Houllier began with a 5-3-2 formation but had to reshuffle after Chelsea went in front in the 7th minute.

Leboeuf sent David James the wrong way after referee Paul Durkin spotted a handball by Republic of Ireland defender Phil Babb.

Houllier immediately sent on McManaman in place of Veggard Heggem and reverted to a flat back four.

But moment of impudent skill by Gianfranco Zola almost brought another after Flo nodded down Goldbaek's high centre, but the Italian's instinctive lob with his back to the goal was just too high.

Robbie Fowler wastefully fired over the bar from the edge of the box after Leboeuf made a hash of a clearance and Owen fired another chance straight at Ed de Goey.

Chelsea were forced to make a change when skipper Leboeuf hobbled off to be replaced by Bernard Lambourde and Paul Ince almost levelled with a near post effort which found the side-netting.

But Liverpool's defence was torn apart again in the 38th minute as Zola held the ball up before laying it off to Petrescu, whose centre found Goldbaek totally unmarked beyond the far post and the Dane gave James no chance from six yards.

Goldbaek tried to return the favour just before the break but Petrescu's volley struck the left-hand upright.

Ince blow for Liverpool

James managed to get his fingertips to Zola's chip soon after the re-start and it was just enough to prevent Flo having an easy tap-in.

[ image: Michael Owen gave Desailly the slip for Liverpool's goal]
Michael Owen gave Desailly the slip for Liverpool's goal
But Liverpool's problems were compounded when Ince went off with an injury and Jean-Michel Ferri replaced him in midfield.

Graeme Le Saux was shown the yellow card for time-wasting and he was lucky to stay on the field moments later after an off the-ball incident left Fowler lying on the turf.

Owen played a dangerous ball across Chelsea's six-yard box after a flash of inspiration, but the main threat continued to come at the other end.

Goldbaek flashed a low 25-yard drive past the post and Petrescu was sent clean through, only to delay his shot long enough for Matteo to rescue Liverpool.

Chelsea looked comfortable until the otherwsie immaculate Marcel Desailly was caught in possession by Fowler after 77 minutes and he fed the ball through for Owen to beat de Goey with an expert finish.

The goal reinvigorated Liverpool but the Blues hung on thanks to the fighting spirit which, allied to the talent of their imported stars, has seen them beaten only twice in the league this season.

Chelsea: De Goey, Ferrer, Desailly, Leboeuf, Le Saux, Petrescu, Morris, Di Matteo, Goldbaek, Flo, Zola. Subs: Hitchcock, Lambourde, Nicholls, Newton, Forssell.

Liverpool: James, Heggem, Kvarme, Matteo, Babb, Bjornebye, Berger, Redknapp, Ince, Owen, Fowler. Subs: Staunton, McManaman, Riedle, Ferri, Friedel. Referee: P Durkin (Portland)

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