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Hughes fires stunning Chelsea recovery

by Rob King of "Press Association"

How Chelsea love Gianluca Vialli now after the balding hit-man led one of the most astonishing FA Cup comebacks of an already vintage competition.

Cheer up? The Italian star is head over heels after turning this tie inside out in an emotional second half which brought four home goals in 25 incredible minutes.

Ruud Gullit proved the tactical master with his introduction of Mark Hughes at half-time. Until the Welshman arrived, a vengeful Liverpool side were strolling into the fifth round with goals from Robbie Fowler and Stan Collymore.

Hughes sparked the Chelsea comeback with their first goal in the 50th minute. But it was the devastating double by Vialli which knocked the stuffing out of the Premiership leaders and set up a tie at Leicester.

Last week he was sulking on the bench until Dennis Wise ran across and showed him his vest with 'Cheer Up Luca, We Love You XX' printed on it.

And he returned his team-mates' affection by hauling them back on Wembley Way and reviving his own dream of adding an English FA Cup winners' medal to the four he won in Italy with Sampdoria and Juventus.

He was so overcome that he did not want to leave as he and the rest of the Londoners celebrated their second Stamford Bridge win over Liverpool in 26 days.

Roy Evans slated the Merseysiders for their slack attitude when they lost here on New Year's Day and the Liverpool boss will be furious with the way they fell apart in the second half.

Hughes swivelled round to score in the 50th minute, Gianfranco Zola crashed home an equaliser eight minutes later and then Vialli finished them off in the 63rd and 76th minutes.

History had repeated itself. Chelsea beat Liverpool 4-2 in the fourth round in 1978 when their two-goal hero then was Clive Walker -- now inspiring this season's giantkillers Woking.

But few would have bet on this outcome at the break - certainly not BBC pundit Alan Hansen who was taunted by the Blues fans as Liverpool disintegrated.

Hughes' calf strain persuaded Gullit to bring back Vialli after eight games out of his starting plans but his partnership with little compatriot Zola never functioned well in a dreadful home first half.

With Scott Minto and Steve Clarke back for Burley and Myers, Chelsea's balance was off and Liverpool stretched and opened up their defence with the sort of incisive passing and flooding attacks which they so badly lacked on their last visit.

John Barnes, restored for young Jamie Carragher, showed their fierce determination to earn Roy Evans' approval this time, so much so that he was booked for an uncharacteristic flare-up with Dennis Wise from which both players took a long time to calm down.

By then five-times winners and last season's losing finalists were already ahead thanks to Fowler's 10th minute goal which showed Liverpool's control of both flanks.

Steve McManaman's low cross from the left just evaded Fowler and it was returned into the middle the England midfielder was blocked out.

But Stig Bjornebye picked it up and his low ball was left-footed home from six yards by the penalty area pickpocket who had barely moved position during all the to-ing and fro-ing.

Fowler's 21st goal of the season was followed by partner Collymore's 12th, a real case of the biter bit for Chelsea who had won the New Year's Day game with a Roberto Di Matteo breakaway after a sloppy Michael Thomas pass.

This time it was Eddie Newton, miscuing Zola's ball along the back, that gave the England hopeful the opportunity to break through and the Chelsea midfielder could never get close enough to stop him right-footing the ball past the advancing Kevin Hitchcock.

Frank Sinclair made a perfectly-timed interception to whip the ball off Fowler's toe but it was McManaman who had the best chance to wrap up the tie in the 34th minute.

Released down the left side by Collymore he had the goalkeeper at his mercy but shot tamely straight at him from 10 yards, a terrible miss.

Despite flashes of Zola's skill, Chelsea could offer nothing in response except their passion, with Wise and McManaman cautioned for a wrestling contest, and Fowler following them into referee Steve Dunn's book after he refused to hand the ball over to a furious Frank Leboeuf.

When McManaman scuffed a chance from Barnes' lay-back inches wide of the far post, everyone felt they were on course for a repeat of the 5-1 Anfield scoreline of last October.

Old Chelsea heroes Eric 'Rabbit' Parsons and John Dempsey were introduced to the crowd at half-time: "Bring them on," shouted one wag.

Instead, Gullit brought on Mark Hughes for Scott Minto, Zola slotting in behind as he did on his debut.

Hughes' ability to hold the ball up and bring other people into play, his strength and sheer presence are such invaluable assets.

And within five minutes he had made a stunning contribution, taking Clarke's ball on his chest, turning and drilling his shot inside James' right-hand post.

James could only parry a fierce drive by Di Matteo before Hughes set up the equaliser, seizing on the ball on the edge of the area and somehow pushing it out for Zola to bury with his deadly left foot from 25 yards.

Liverpool were like a boxer who has taken two knockout punches and is still standing. So groggy that no-one could live with Vialli as he raced clear onto Dan Petrescu's pass and put the home side ahead.

James held onto a crisp effort from Hughes, flicked Di Matteo's round the post and then got down late to a Di Matteo deflection. But it was only delaying the inevitable which came when Vialli's cushioned header flew past him from Zola's free kick in the 76th minute.

Just to rub it in, Hitchcock made a blinding save from Fowler right at the death to complete a breathtaking game.

Fire-breathing Mark Hughes sparked the astonishing FA Cup comeback that sent Liverpool back to Merseyside stunned and revealed: "We could sense the fear in them."

The Welsh dragon had been dropped by Ruud Gullit in favour of Italian ace Gianluca Vialli.

But with the Blues looking down and out after first-half goals from Robbie Fowler and Stan Collymore, Gullit bit the bullet by sending Hughes on at the interval.

Within five minutes Hughes had scored to start a 25-minute spell in which the Stamford Bridge crowd roared with pleasure as their side struck three more times -- one from Gianfranco Zola and two from Vialli -- to earn a fifth-round trip to Leicester.

And Hughes said that as soon as his sixth goal of the season had flashed past David James the Chelsea players knew the tide had turned decisively.

"I think everybody felt the fear in them," said Hughes. "The crowd realised it too, realised we could get back into the game. The goal got everybody going and there was no stopping us in the end."

Gullit added: "I could see they were afraid once we scored. We could hear them talking and it looked as if they didn't fancy it."

"If you feel that fear you know you can take advantage of it and they were so nervous after we scored."

Even so it was a dramatic reversal of fortune as Gullit conceded.

"I was really angry at half-time because we gave the two goals away, they were presents," said Gullit.

"It wasn't as if we played badly but we made it easy for them. I had to make a change, to do something different, and so I sent Mark on and pushed Roberto di Matteo right onto John Barnes to stop him distributing the ball."

"Then the strikers finished the job. I only told Luca just before the start that he was in and I hear he was quite surprised."

"He's been disappointed at being out for such a long time and he was a little bit nervous but he did great for me and scored two superb goals."

Liverpool boss Roy Evans seemed overcome at the way his side, in total command at the break, had capitulated in such stunning fashion.

"You've got to believe it but the difference in the two halves was just incredible," said Evans.

"We could have gone in four up at half-time but we missed some really good chances and in the second half we backed off 30 yards and gave them the space to play. Against players of that quality you just can't do that."

"In the first half they hadn't threatened and we looked like scoring every time we got the ball, but then in the second half we were defending on the edge of our own box and paid for it."

Copyright - Press Association

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