Vicenza 1 Chelsea 0 – Cup Winners’ Cup, 2nd April 1998
Chelsea 3 Vicenza 1 – Cup Winners’ Cup, 16th April 1998
Chelsea were always the favourites to win the European Cup Winners’ Cup in 1997-1998 a position that was only strengthened when Real Betis were beaten in the quarter-finals. All that stood between us and a place in the final were the unfancied Italian side Vicenza who were appearing in European competition for only the second time.
Football being football and Chelsea being Chelsea, the tie proved anything but straightforward. We started the first leg negatively and soon conceded. Then we were caught between chasing an away goal and sitting back and containing the home side. As it was only an inspired display by goalkeeper Ed de Goey kept the score down to 1-0.
Vicenza approached the second leg far more positively than we had the first. De Goey saved well twice and then a defensive mix up gave the Italians the lead on the night and a vital away goal.
Now we had to score three in an hour having created little in two. Then a hero emerged; Gus Poyet was playing his first game in six months and he hooked in a rebound three minutes after the first goal.
Gianfranco Zola headed home a Gianluca Vialli cross four minutes into the second half and for 20 minutes the Italian defence creaked but it did not crack. Then, as we began to run out of ideas Mark Hughes was sent on as substitute as we played direct football. Five minutes later Hughes volleyed a brilliant shot into the net. It was a goal only he could have scored and Stamford Bridge exploded with noise.
Even then, we were indebted to De Goey who made two brilliant saves late on, the second with the last attack of the tie.