Gus Poyet scored the decisive goal when Chelsea won their only UEFA Super Cup in 1998 but, as Graham Hunter explains, it was a day that started with disappointment
If you listen to Frank Lampard speak, animatedly, about his lingering hurt at losing two Super Cup matches as a Chelsea player, there’s no need to seek further confirmation of how important this trophy is to the new Blues’ manager, his staff, the squad or Chelsea’s travelling fans.
However, there is another theme in play here. Twenty-one long years have passed since Chelsea ‘followed on’ by winning a UEFA trophy and then adding this special ‘additional’ honour. Too long.
Winning is a habit, trophies matter. Medals, honour, history and bragging rights all raise the stakes. That was the case for the man who scored the winner on that unique occasion, when Chelsea went from victory in the 1998 Cup Winners’ Cup final to clinching another UEFA title a couple of months later. If you know your history, you’ll be aware we are talking about Gustavo Poyet – a midfield stalwart for the Blues between 1997 and 2001.
For those unlucky enough not to see him play, Poyet was tall, elegant, competitive, football-intelligent and oozing character. His leap was prodigious, his powers of conversation, sense of humour and drive to build team spirit all legendary.
None of those qualities were quite enough, however, to propel Gus into the Chelsea starting XI against Real Madrid back in August 1998. Setting the scene doesn’t take much work.
CHELSEA'S UEFA SUPER CUP RECORD
Real Madrid 0-1 Chelsea
Chelsea 1-4 Atlético de Madrid
Bayern 2-2 Chelsea (aet; Bayern win 5-4 on penalties)
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Real Madrid could walk with a swagger again – they’d just won their first European Cup since 1966 and would soon claim three UEFA Champions League titles in five years. But they had never competed for the UEFA Super Cup and faced fellow newcomers Chelsea in the competition’s first one-off showdown in Monaco.
Poyet wasn’t impressed to be on the bench at the Stade Louis II. “This was a special occasion for so many reasons,” he recalls, “and I approached it with a thorn in my side. I was repeatedly asking myself why, when I had the good fortune to normally play close to the opposition goal, I’d never scored a goal in a final. I wanted one. That was a big motivation.
“Then, because of my past at Real Zaragoza, the idea of playing Real Madrid in a final was huge. We’d always waited anxiously to see when we’d be playing them when the Liga fixtures came out – it was logical that it was a massive game. You bet your bottom dollar I was desperate to play.
“Finally, I guess the Madrid people didn’t know this, but even for a club the size of Chelsea, this was going to be one of the great matches in their history. So I was pretty ticked off with our coach, Luca Vialli, because he started super defensively, with Marcel Desailly in midfield and doubling up on Roberto Carlos down our right side, with the idea of closing down the first hour and then trying to win it in the last 30 minutes.
“And, I have to say, it worked perfectly because he brought me on as a second-half sub, I got my first ever goal in a final, from Franco Zola’s pass, and we won 1-0 – all in all a very special memory for me.”