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
”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.