Vialli brought down to earth
THE Chelsea Miracle, alias the Gianluca Vialli Revival, was of somewhat brief duration. Arsenal were duly and dramatically eliminated from the League Cup semi-finals in the Stamford Bridge return, after Vialli had given each player a half-glass of champagne before the match, and Mark Hughes had set the tone with some gratuitously aggressive play.
Arsenal should have won the first-leg by four or five at Highbury as we know, but they didn't, and with Dennis Bergkamp hampered by injury, Patrick Vieira sent off, manager Arsene Wenger bizarrely preferring David Platt to the rampant Stephen Hughes as substitute (Hughes didn't get on until the 71st minute). Arsenal went down to some spectacular goals, 3-1.
Back to earth for Chelsea at Leicester where Gianluca, in his evident anxiety not to ring the changes as Ruud Gullit had, so often to his own detriment, put out exactly the same side again except in goal where Russia's Dmitri Kharine returned at last, Ed de Goey being wanted by Holland in the US.
Leicester, for whom scoring more than one goal is a major event, scored two, and both went to Emile Heskey who hadn't been on target in a while. Had Chelsea been more alert he would surely have been played offside when he got the first from point blank range. Thereafter, though Vialli mysteriously opined that his team had played exceptionally well in the second half, Leicester called the tune. Matt Elliott dominated in defence, and Heskey's second, late on, was well deserved.
Winning twice in a week, Manchester United are, despite recent setbacks, still strolling away with the Championship, but injury to a brilliant Ryan Giggs could be a cruel setback, especially with the European Cup quarter-finals against Mon-aco coming up. He looked best player on the park against Derby, who never looked like repeating their Paulo Wanchope-inspired success of last season at Old Trafford.
United's win at Villa last week, with two late goals, was perhaps rather more than they deserved.
So Arsenal, bringing in a clutch of young reserves to beat Crystal Palace in the second of three successive games against them, somehow take second place. Arsenal beat Palace again, 2-1 this time, in their midweek FA Cup replay.
At Selhurst, yet another dreary Premier League game won by Wimbledon against an Aston Villa team in which, by an irony, much the most effective attacker was Savo Milosevic who, having spat at Villa fans, had recently refused to play and will certainly be leaving in the summer.
His deflected shot off Chris Perry gave Villa their goal in a 2-1 defeat but a painful foul by Duncan Jupp put him off the field with damaged medial ligaments, adding to a casualty list which includes, alas, Steve Staunton, Mark Draper and Dwight Yorke.
A blunder by a Wimbledon official, who confused Ceri with Michael Hughes and was therefore too late in his application to the FA for Michael to be 'amnestied' from his suspension, deprived the Dons of their chief playmaker.
But Carl Leaburn, once derided at Charlton for his failure to score goals, is proving a tremendous bargain at ?150,000, scoring yet again and making another for the dandy Dons.
Again it just goes to show what can be achieved through prudent buying in the lower leagues.