Coca-Zola Puts Sparkle Back Into Blues (Sky Sports)  

Gianfranco ZolaChelsea 2-0 Liverpool
FA Carling Premiership

Darren Steward at the Bridge

Gianluca Vialli's harsh midweek words appeared to have the desired effect as Gianfranco Zola-inspired Chelsea deservedly beat Liverpool at Stamford Bridge to keep their top-three ambitions faintly alive.

Two early first-half efforts from George Weah and Roberto Di Matteo gave the Londoners their first win in five and went some way to atoning for a lacklustre 3-2 defeat to Manchester United at Old Trafford last Monday.

Liverpool, for their part, can have no complaints at losing their 13-league game unbeaten run. Their miserable run at Stamford Bridge is almost as poor as Chelsea'a at Anfield - the Merseysiders have not won on the Fulham Road since December 1989.

Chelsea got off to a dramatic start. In the second minute of the game, George Weah scampered through from a Roberto Di Matteo pass and, as the Liverpool defence appealed for offside, he slotted the ball calmly past Sander Westerveld.

Thirteen minutes later, the league's meanest defence was perforated a second time - brilliant link play between Zola, Weah and Dennis Wise put Roberto Di Matteo in with a chance and the Italian's first time shot found the net.

Liverpool were clearly rattled and screamed for a penalty when keeper Ed de Goey got himself involved in a penalty-box brou-ha-ha with Patrik Berger and Frank Leboeuf, but the referee fortuitously for the Blues, awarded the free-kick against the Czech international.

Following a couple of further full-blooded challenges, the visitors assistant boss Phil Thompson ran up and down the touchline like an untethered pit bull terrier, and he went over to remonstrate with the Chelsea bench.

Zola, like a raisin in a Californian vineyard, was relishing the sun. The gifted Sardinian was using his guile and low centre of gravity to unsettle and outmaneuver the Swiss and Finnish behemoth's, Stephane Henchoz and Sami Hyypia, whose faces grimaced and frowned with desperation and concentration.

Zola was imperious now, supported by the eager Weah and Wise, forcing Westerveld to back-pedal furiously to tip over a cross-shot which looked like it was dipping underneath the crossbar. Liverpool weren't at the races, although Dietmar Hamann struck a blistering free kick.

It was 42 minutes before Liverpool earned their first corner, the longest time they have had to wait for one since the 1991/2 season. Then, there was a fortunate escape for Chelsea midfielder Morris shortly before half-time when he escaped a second booking despite felling Steven Gerrard from behind. Speaking of which, Robbie Fowler stretched and bent over touching his toes, waiting for his chance to come on. There was no Graeme Le Saux for him to bait this afternoon however.

Gustavo Poyet replaced Babayaro at half-time, with Harley reverting to left-back. Gerrard limped off with a groin problem to be replaced by Jamie Redknapp on 51 minutes.

Liverpool were meanwhile certainly making more of an impression upon the game in the second half, with Berger rasping the ball into De Goey's midriff and Hamann firing a free-kick just over.

Liverpool even had four strikers on the pitch for the final 15 minutes as Fowler came on to replace Danny Murphy but still they could not make any real headway against a Chelsea defence well marshaled by Marcel Desailly.

Chelsea: de Goey, Melchiot, Desailly, Leboeuf, Babayaro (Poyet 46), Di Matteo, Wise, Morris (Thome 70), Harley, Zola, Weah (Sutton 81).
Subs Not Used: Ambrosetti, Cudicini.
Booked: Morris.
Goals: Weah 2, Di Matteo 14.

Liverpool: Westerveld, Carragher, Henchoz, Hyypia, Matteo, Murphy (Fowler 75), Hamann (Camara 66), Gerrard (Redknapp 51), Berger, Owen, Heskey. Subs Not Used: Song, Nielsen.
Att: 34,957
Ref: G Barber (Tring).