St Gallen lose to single Chelsea goal
The Swiss football champions St Gallen have suffered a 1-0 defeat in the first leg of their UEFA Cup tie against the English club Chelsea.
Against a team packed with international stars, St Gallen were made to work hard and were fortunate to come away with only one goal against them.
In a first half of almost unremitting Chelsea pressure, the St Gallen defence often seemed happy just to be able to boot the ball upfield and regroup in time for the next attack.
They usually didn't have to wait too long. Chelsea striker Tore Andre Flo had an early chance to put his side ahead, flashing a shot narrowly wide of the St Gallen post in the seventh minute.
Italian midfielder Roberto Di Matteo, who grew up in German-speaking Switzerland, then had a couple of opportunities to make his former kinsmen squirm. But after heading his first chance well wide of Jörg Stiel's post, Di Matteo then flicked the ball inches over the crossbar.
With 23 minutes played Chelsea went close once more, as free-kick specialist Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink curled the ball past Stiel only to hit the woodwork.
Two minutes later the Londoners were finally rewarded for their efforts. Christian Panucci burst through the St Gallen offside trap, forcing Stiel to come out of his goal.
The Swiss keeper spread himself well at Panucci's feet but the Chelsea player was just able to chip the ball over Stiel and into the net.
With St Gallen coach Marcel Koller deploying Charles Amoah as a lone striker, the Swiss club's goalscoring chances were few and far between.
Brazilian midfielder Guido shot an early chance straight at the Chelsea keeper, Carlo Cudicini, while a pass from Amoah to Jerren Nixon ended with the Trinidadian smashing the ball well wide.
After the break, St Gallen enjoyed more of the play but rarely looked like threatening the Chelsea net. In the 72nd minute Amoah headed on a free-kick to the feet of Jairo, but the Brazilian seemed to attempt a pass when a shot would have probably been more profitable.
St Gallen's defence proved more solid in the second half and although Chelsea continued to dominate possession, the English side looked less dangerous than in the opening 45 minutes.
In the closing minutes Chelsea twice came close to scoring a goal that would have changed the whole complexion of the tie. Hasselbaink played a ball back to Marcel Desailly whose strike from the edge of the area forced a hasty one-handed save out of Stiel.
In injury time Stiel again had to react quickly, diving to the ground to smother a free kick smashed through the St Gallen wall by Hasselbaink.
Moments later the match ended with a scoreline that may not have reflected the imbalance of the game, but for St Gallen at least it keeps the tie tantalisingly open for the return match in Zurich in two weeks' time.
by Mark Ledsom
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