Premier League - 24 August 1997
Chelsea’s biggest ever away win in the top flight was also a moment of personal triumph for one of the most popular players of the day. Ruud Gullit was expected to retain Mark Hughes as his preferred striker but instead returned to Gianluca Vialli.
It was the unsettled Italian’s first appearance of the season and he made the maximum of it. Barnsley boss Danny Wilson admitted his Premier League new boys were given a footballing lesson: ‘Their movement was magnificent and it caused us all sorts of problems.’
The lesson took a while to start, with the Tykes squandering opportunities, but once Dennis Wise and his teammates started to buzz the hosts had no recourse. Dan Petrescu pounced on a defensive error to start things off and, soon after, Gustavo Poyet finished from close range.
Then Chelsea’s former European Cup-winner took centre-stage, netting four for the first time in his illustrious career, including a 30-minute hat-trick. The six without reply also equalled the highest margin of victory by an away team in the Premier League.
‘He looks fitter and sharper,’ said a delighted Gullit of Vialli, afterwards. ‘And he’s given up smoking.’