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The FA Cup comeback

ChelseaChadder looks back at remarkable FA Cup match against Liverpool in 1997

Chelsea 4 Liverpool 2 26th January 1997

FA Cup Round 4 Stamford Bridge

Chelsea; Kevin Hitchcock, Dan Petrescu, Frank Leboeuf, Steve Clarke, Gianluca Vialli, Dennis Wise, Roberto Di Matteo, Scott Minto (Mark Hughes 46), Frank Sinclair, Eddie Newton, Gianfranco Zola

Scorers; Vialli (2), Hughes, Zola

Booked; Sinclair, Wise

Manager; Ruud Gullit

Referee; Steve W Dunn

Attendance; 27,950

The 1996/97 season was one of the most memorable. It started with the signing of overseas internationals including Frank Leboeuf, Roberto Di Matteo and the European Cup winning striker Gianluca Vialli. A few months later the Blues signed another Italian by the name of Gianfranco Zola. These players were integrated into a squad consisting of Ruud Gullit, Dennis Wise and Mark Hughes. Things were very exciting in West London.

In the FA Cup third round Chelsea beat West Brom comfortably 3-0 with goals from Dennis Wise, Craig Burley and new signing Gianfranco Zola. In the league game before this the Blues played Liverpool and won 1-0 thanks to Roberto Di Matteo’s strike after Liverpool midfielder Michael Thomas sloppily gave the ball away which the Italian put away from just outside the box. The two sides were later drawn to play each other in the FA Cup fourth round, again at Stamford Bridge.

The Blues welcomed Liverpool who were sitting top of the Premier League at the time. Robbie Fowler and British transfer record Stan Collymore were leading the Merseysiders attack. The match would be a real test for the Blues.

It was Liverpool who started the brightest and goals from Fowler and Collymore gave the Reds a 2-0 lead by half time. It could have been more if not for Liverpool’s poor finishing and superb goalkeeping from Kevin Hitchcock.

At half time the Chelsea players walked into the dressing room awaiting a few choice words from manager Ruud Gullit. However, the dreadlocked superstar just sat there and read a newspaper. The players looked a little perplexed until the boss put the paper down. He then went on to explain that they would go on to win the game. All they needed to do was to stop John Barnes getting the ball in the Liverpool midfield. Also, he decided to make a substitution by taking off defender Scott Minto for FA Cup veteran Mark Hughes who had won the competition three times.

Mark Hughes’ introduction at half time was an inspired change as the Welshman scored within five minutes after he used his strength to hold off Liverpool’s defence before turning and hitting the ball past David James. Less than ten minutes later it was the little Italian magician Zola that hit a curling shot from outside the box after Hughes’ lay off. These two players had built a fantastic relationship on the pitch which had left Ginaluca Vialli out of the regular starting line up. Chelsea were now level with the visitors and on the ascendency.

Gianluca Vialli was starting his first Chelsea game since the beginning of December and he intended to show his manager that he had a lot to offer the team. Just after the hour mark Dan Petrescu received the ball and played it forward to Vialli who poked the ball home from 15 yards to put his side 3-2 up. The crowd was electric and you could feel something special was happening.

With fifteen minutes to go the Blues were awarded a freekick. Zola’s curled ball into the box was met by the head of Vialli and it flew into the net in front of advertising boarding. The Shed End was being rebulit but the rest of the ground made up for it in terms of noise. From 2-0 down at half time the Blues won 4-2 against the league leaders and ensured their name would be in the hat for the next round draw.

Chelsea 4 – 2 Liverpool 1997 FA Cup, what a game – Chelsea FC Lookback:

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