Gianluca Vialli popped champagne for Chelsea stars before match – and they won

Gianluca Vialli sensationally popped champagne to inspire Chelsea players ahead of their League Cup semi-final comeback.

Stepping into the Stamford Bridge hot-seat as player-manager in February 1998, Vialli's first game in charge came against London rivals Arsenal with the Blues needing to overturn a 2-1 first-leg defeat at Highbury to advance to the final. Needing a serious morale boost ahead of the return fixture, Vialli opted for an unorthodox tactic to quieten the nerves in SW6.

The Italian popped a couple of bottles of champagne before the decisive match, handing out glasses to each player in the home dressing room.

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Though the conventional celebratory method seemed to do the trick. Starting himself upfront alongside Mark Hughes and Gianfranco Zola, Chelsea were back on level terms after only 10 minutes when Hughes rifled a right-footed shot past Alex Manninger from just inside the area.

And when Patrick Vieira was dismissed for a second bookable offence shortly after the interval, Chelsea seized the impetus by netting two goals in as many minutes.

Rocketing the ball into the top right corner from 30 yards, Roberto Di Matteo handed the Blues the lead for the first time in the tie in the 51st minute before Dan Petrescu made the most of Zola's corner to put the contest beyond any doubt.

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Arsenal were able to give themselves a late lifeline when Denis Bergkamp scored from the spot but it was Chelsea who went onto reach the 1998 League Cup final, where they would come up against plucky underdogs Middlesbrough, who had lost both the League Cup final and the FA Cup final – against Chelsea – the previous campaign.

Besting Boro once again with two goals in extra time, champagne became a common occurrence for Vialli during his time in the Stamford Bridge dugout.

The Italian would later become the youngest manager to claim a European crown with success in the UEFA Cup Winner's Cup whilst also triumphing in the FA Cup and Charity Shield.


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