PIRES HAS CHELSEA SINGING THE BLUES
By Nic Evans
Last Updated: 01/01/70 1:00am
Marseille pressed forward from the first whistle and the Chelsea defence looked strangely shaky, with Pires` goal no more than the home side deserved as they took the initiative.
The London club`s cause was not helped by reports of missiles being traded by the fans, and riot police firing tear-gas into the crowd, in a bid to quell the disturbance.
Gianluca Vialli looked on helplessly from the directors box, a penalty incurred by his touchline dismissal in Italy last December, as his side surrendered to Marseille`s onslaught.
Jon Harley was preferred to Celestine Babayaro at left-back, indeed the Nigerian was not even on the bench, a consequence of his late return home from the African Cup of Nations.
The home side should have gone in front when former Everton striker Ibrahima Bakayoko danced past Harley and crossed for Cyrille Pouget who somehow managed to miss the gaping net.
Harley did redeem himself with a superb run and cross for Tore Andre Flo but his knockdown for Gianfranco Zola was fired over the bar by the Italian.
However, it was not long before Marseille took the lead as Jerome Leroy`s ball down Harley`s flank put Pires in, he sped past Marcel Desailly and his powerful low shot was too much for de Goey, although the Dutchman must wonder how he left so much room at his near post.
Amazingly, the ball clipped the near post and then the keeper`s far post before entering the net from an improbable angle.
Flo attempted to get his team back on track but his shot was well saved by Stephane Trevisan, the reserve keeper, in the Marseille goal.
Pires could have added to his opening strike as a cross fell to him, unmarked in the box, but Harley made a great tackle to keep the Frenchman out.
Chelsea`s attempts at playing counter-attacking football were thwarted as Zola and Flo were caught off-side numerous times and they could not rely on Gustavo Poyet`s usual barnstorming displays in the centre of the park as he had to counteract the threat of Pires.
In the second half, Dennis Wise had a penalty appeal turned down but the Londoners lacked the invention needed to break through Marseille`s defence.
Roberto Di Matteo came on for Didier Deschamps, but it did not make much of a difference as Leroy, Bakayoko and Pouget continued to torment The Blues` defence.
Indeed Bakayoko stormed through to almost make it 2-0 as his first shot rebounded back to him and he blasted a curling shot just wide.
Chris Sutton caused the Marseille defence problems all evening and his challenge which set up a goalmouth scramble led to a massive brawl involving most of the outfield players, although the referee did not produce any cards.
Poyet`s late header, from a Wise corner, almost salvaged a point but Trevisan proved an unlikely hero as an amazing reflex save with his left arm, from point-blank range, secured the win.