Chelsea Enjoy the FA Cup Glory

Published May 20th, 2000 - 02:00 GMT

Chelsea won the 72nd FA Cup final at Wembley on Saturday beating Aston Villa 1-0 with a goal from Roberto di Matteo after 73 minutes securing the trophy, their third ever and second in four years, and a place in next season's UEFA Cup competition. 

The Wembley showpiece was the last final to be played at the national stadium before it undergoes a multi-million pound reconstruction starting in October, including the removal of the famous twin towers. 

Di Matteo, capped 34 times for Italy, struck with 17 minutes to go, lashing home from close-range after Villa keeper David James failed to hold Gianfranco Zola's free-kick. 

The 29 year-old Italian wrote himself into the record books in the 1997 final by scoring the fastest Wembley cup final goal ever after 42 seconds in Chelsea's 2-0 triumph over Middlesbrough. 

"The first time I scored it was for my sister .. this time it's for my girlfriend!" the Italian said. 

Chelsea's Italian coach Gianluca Vialli, who had been under pressure after Chelsea failed to qualify for Europe through the Premiership, was a relieved man. 

"We were the better team but they made it hard for us," he said. 

"However, this is a just reward for us as we have played very well this season without a lot of luck and the players have performed well under all the pressure," he added. 

Chelsea captain Dennis Wise, who had a goal ruled out for offside early in the second-half, choked back the tears. 

"It's a great feeling and particularly with all my family here and even my father up there," said Wise. 

"I thought my goal was good but it doesn't matter now as I am going to climb up the steps and collect the trophy ... we deserve it!" 

Aston Villa's former England international midfielder Paul Merson, a Chelsea supporter, was philosophical in defeat. 

"They pulled away from us in the second-half and were far and away the better team," he said. 

"They did things that we couldn't even dream of doing and showed us what a gap there is between the top five teams in the Premiership and the rest like us. 

"It's disappointing obviously but if you don't take half chances against teams of that quality then you pay for it," he added. 

George Weah was the surprise inclusion in the Chelsea side with the Liberian striker being preferred by Vialli instead of Norwegian Tore Andre Flo. 

There were no surprises in the Villa line up with Ian Taylor and George Boateng getting the nod in midfield while Benito Carbone was preferred up front to Julian Joachim. 

A mass of fireworks greeted the two teams as they stepped out onto the pitch - but when the action got underway there were few early goalmouth scares. 

After a tentative start by both teams the game sprang into life after 10 minutes. 

Wise unleashed a right-foot volley on the edge of the box after Gianfranco Zola's cross was headed clear but the Chelsea captain's effort was comfortably saved by James on his goal line. 

A minute later Mark Delaney went tearing down the right wing before crossing for Dion Dublin whose header was deflected wide of the upright. 

England under-21 star Gareth Barry was booked by referee Graham Poll - England's representative at Euro 2000 next month - after 17 minutes for a late tackle on Mario Melchiot, who was also shown a yellow card two minutes later for a foul on Barry. 

After 26 minutes Wise joined them in Poll's notebook for clattering Boateng while the energetic Merson's long-range effort sailed over Ed de Goey's crossbar moments later. 

Chelsea and Villa hold the second and third best defensive records in the Premiership respectively, so it was no great surprise chances were at a premium in the opening 45 minutes. 

Villa went close three minutes after the break when Gareth Southgate headed just over the bar while at the other end Frenchman Didier Deschamps and Zola combined to set up Weah whose low right foot shot flashed inches wide of the post. 

Gustavo Poyet then became the fourth player to be booked for fouling Boateng a minute later. 

After 54 minutes Wise thought he had given Chelsea the lead. James failed to hold Di Matteo's stinging shot and the Chelsea skipper slid the ball home. Wise ran off celebrating but Poll had already blown the whistle for an offside decision against Weah. 

With half an hour to go Weah should have scored when he met Zola's curling cross but the Liberian shot wide from close range with just the keeper to beat. 

After 69 minutes Dublin found himself free in the Chelsea penalty area but could not get enough power behind his header and de Goey watched the ball sail over the crossbar. 

Four minutes later Chelsea went in front. Melchiot's surging run was halted on the edge of the Villa penalty area and Zola stepped up to take the free kick. 

The diminutive Sardinian whipped the ball into the box and James and Southgate between them failed to clear the danger leaving Di Matteo to rifle the ball high into the roof of the net. 

Villa the went straight up the other end and almost drew level when Carbone had a shot cleared off the line by French international Frank Leboeuf. 

After 79 minutes Steve Stone and Julian Joachim came on for Taylor and Carbone as Villa looked to strengthen their attacking options while Chelsea brought on Flo for the tired Weah. 

Ugo Ehiogu came close to leveling for Villa in the closing stages but Chelsea were thankful to see his looping header fly over the bar. 

Zola was replaced by Jody Morris as Chelsea played for time and Lee Hendrie came on for Alan Wright with seconds to go. But it was all too late for Villa as the 'Blues' lifted the cup – (AFP) 

© 2000 Al Bawaba (www.albawaba.com)

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