The old warhorse is in his final years but the power, the menace, the desire burn as fiercely as ever. Mark Hughes, scourge of the Scouse, did it again yesterday as Chelsea produced the outstanding comeback of an FA Cup weekend studded with them.Hughes’ day had had the most unpromising of beginnings. Left out of the starting line-up, he sat on the bench in growing frustration as Liverpool, playing typically silky football, scored twice in the first 21 minutes and held the lead until half-time.
Chelsea, meanwhile, have served notice that they have resilience to go with their skill. The team spirit, while not on a par with Wimbledon, is a far richer brew than usually associated with the club.
Then Hughes was unleashed. The atmosphere was already simmering – adding Hughes was like putting a lighted match into a powderkeg. Chelsea exploded with three goals in 13 minutes, the first scored by Hughes, the second made by him. The third came from Gianluca Vialli whose selection ahead of Hughes had, at half-time, seemed mistaken. With 15 minutes left Vialli added a fourth and Chelsea were through to a fifth-round tie at Leicester City.
Chelsea needed a goal and, after half an hour, Vialli should have provided it but shot over. A minute later Fowler should have sealed the game for Liverpool but headed past. McManaman also wasted a good chance but it seemed not to matter.Enter the Welsh dragon, breathing fire. Liverpool, regular victims during his career, were unnerved. Four minutes later he held the ball up then turned in characteristic fashion to shoot low into the net. Liverpool now looked as if they had encountered a snarling dog and Chelsea, smelling their fear, went for the jugular.
Roberto di Matteo, pushed forward to harry John Barnes, had one shot saved then another blocked. Hughes was able to toe that to Zola who bent a rocket of a shot past David James.The game see-sawed, Fowler and Zola both missing chances, before Vialli came in from the cold. As Zola found Dan Petrescu he glided in from the wing. The Romanian spotted his run, the pass and execution were perfect.James made three excellent saves from Di Matteo and Villia but Chelsea’s Azzurri would not be denied. Vialli won a free-kick on the right, Zola floated it in and Vialli, unchallenged, headed past James.