Chelsea through after stunning recovery vs. Napoli

Chelsea staged one of the most stirring recoveries in Champions

League history on Wednesday, overturning a two-goal deficit from

the first leg against Napoli with a thrilling 4-1 victory to ensure

England’s representation in the quarterfinals.

Serbia defender Branislav Ivanovic completed a dramatic

turnaround at Stamford Bridge with a 105th-minute winner in an

end-to-end second leg, sealing a 5-4 aggregate victory over the

Italian side.

”This is one of the very best nights for us,” Chelsea captain

John Terry said. ”We showed what Chelsea are all about.”

Fine headers by Didier Drogba and Terry wiped out Napoli’s 3-1

lead from the first leg by the 48th minute, before Gokhan Inler put

the Champions League debutants back in front on aggregate in the


Frank Lampard, another of Chelsea’s much-vaunted old guard, sent

the game into extra time by leveling at 4-4 with a 75th-minute

penalty earned by Ivanovic. The Serb defender went on to seal

victory from Drogba’s cut-back with a finish that the irrepressible

striker would have been proud of.

Chelsea is the only English team to qualify for the last eight,

with the two Manchester clubs crashing out in the group stage and

Arsenal eliminated in the last 16 last week.

Chelsea is also the first team in eight years to advance in the

Champions League after a first-leg loss by a margin of at least two


”We made history and knew that it would take a lot to win,”

said interim coach Roberto Di Matteo, who has rejuvenated Chelsea

with three straight wins since taking over from the fired Andre

Villas-Boas late last month.

”Some of the players couldn’t even run at the end because they

had cramp, but they just kept fighting. Everybody was


Arsenal had given Italy a warning of English teams’ powers of

recovery last week, beating AC Milan 3-0 to nearly overturn a

four-goal deficit from the first leg.

Chelsea succeeded where its London rival had narrowly failed,

reaching the last eight for the seventh time in the past nine


Few were giving the hosts a chance after their limp performance

in Naples three weeks ago – one of Villas-Boas’ last games in

charge – when they were ripped apart by Napoli’s three-pronged

strikeforce of Edinson Cavani, Ezequiel Lavezzi and Marek


The deadly trio, who have helped revive the glory days at the

club more than 20 years after the Diego Maradona era, were at it

again in the early stages at Stamford Bridge by troubling

goalkeeper Petr Cech.

Drogba, fresh from scoring his 100th Premier League goal at the

weekend, soon breathed fresh life into the match when the Ivory

Coast international met Ramires’ cross with a firm header in the


Napoli’s previously raucous fans were further quietened three

minutes after the break when Lampard’s corner to the near post

found Terry, whose glancing header found the far corner.

At that stage, Chelsea was not just in control of the match – it

was also ahead on aggregate due to its away goal at San Paolo


Inler put Napoli back in front overall in the 55th when he

chested down Terry’s headed clearance on the edge of the area and

smashed a sweet half-volley that flew into the bottom corner.

Lampard took the game into extra time by converting a fiercely

struck penalty 15 minutes from time after Ivanovic’s header hit the

raised hand of Andrea Dossena.

Fernando Torres, on as a 63rd-minute substitute and desperate to

end a goal drought stretching back 25 matches, missed an open goal

from an acute angle in the 100th – but Ivanovic made no mistake

five minutes later.