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Last Updated: Wednesday, 25 February, 2004, 21:33 GMT
Stuttgart 0-1 Chelsea
Chelsea's Eidur Gudjohnson challenges Stuttgart's Fernando Meira
An own goal from Fernando Meira gave Chelsea an impressive win in Stuttgart to put them in sight of the Champions League quarter-finals.

Meira deflected the ball into his own net in the 12th minute following an excellent cross from Glen Johnson.

Chelsea keeper Carlo Cudicini performed heroics to keep out a Silvio Meissner shot before the goal, and saved a Kevin Kuranyi header to protect the lead.

And the visitors stood firm to grab a fourth straight away win in Europe.

Our season is not finished yet and we shall continue to fight
Chelsea boss Claudio Ranieri

Stuttgart had boasted an impressive home record against European opposition, having seen off Manchester United, Celtic and Rangers in a 12-game unbeaten run.

They made most of the early running and almost drew first blood when Meissner, who had already fired over the bar from the edge of the area, found space by the penalty spot.

But Cudicini marked his return to the side after a groin injury with a fine diving save to his left and the danger was averted.

KEY MOMENTS
6 mins: Cudicini saves from Meissner
12 mins: Meira puts through his own net
19 mins: Cudicini saves Kuranyi's header
31 mins: Gudjohnsen blazes over when clean through
63 mins: Crespo's strike is ruled offside

Having struggled to get out of their half, Chelsea scored from almost their first attack.

Johnson found space down the right and whipped in a low cross which Meira diverted into his own net as he desperately tried to stop it reaching the unmarked Hernan Crespo.

Stuttgart, however, continued their assault on the Chelsea penalty area and almost drew level on 19 minutes.

Kuranyi found himself completely unmarked at a corner from the left and sent in a header which was brilliantly clawed off the line by Cudicini.

Stuttgart's Fernando Meira reflects on his own goal
Meira's own goal gave Chelsea the perfect start
But Stuttgart were leaving themselves vulnerable to counter-attacks, and Chelsea should have made them pay when Eidur Gudjohnsen found himself clean through 15 minutes before half-time.

A sweeping move saw Crespo slip the ball through to his strike partner and Gudjohnsen was left holding his head in his hands after blazing over the bar from 12 yards.

Having subdued Stuttgart in the run-up to half-time, Chelsea looked solid after the break.

Meira sent a low free-kick flashing a foot wide of Cudicini's right post, but the visitors again had the ball in the net when Crespo lashed home Gudjohnsen's pass - only to be correctly ruled offside.

There was a further boost for Chelsea fans when Damien Duff came off the bench with 25 minutes to go to make his comeback from a shoulder injury.

Stuttgart were largely restricted to shooting from distance as they pushed for an equaliser, with the dependable Cudicini tipping over a rising drive from Kuranyi and rushing off his line to thwart a late attack.


VfB Stuttgart: Hildebrand, Hinkel, Meira, Bordon, Lahm, Meissner (Tiffert 46), Soldo, Hleb, Heldt (Cacau 66), Kuranyi, Szabics.
Subs Not Used: Heinen, Zivkovic, Vranjes, Gerber, Centurion.

Booked: Bordon.

Chelsea: Cudicini, Johnson, Gallas, Terry, Bridge, Geremi, Makelele, Lampard, Gronkjaer (Duff 66), Gudjohnsen (Hasselbaink 73), Crespo (Cole 89).
Subs Not Used: Sullivan, Desailly, Melchiot, Parker.

Booked: Lampard, Makelele, Cudicini, Johnson.

Attendance: 50,000.

Referee: Kyros Vassaras (Greece).






WATCH AND LISTEN
BBC Five Live's John Murray
"Just what Claudio Ranieri and Chelsea needed"


Chelsea boss Claudio Ranieri
"We played very well, with the right discipline"




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