I am absolutely buzzing tonight and if you aren’t then you probably didn’t see the match in all its glory. This is one of those matches you will remember for a long time, unless you have a goldfish memory like I do (I can’t even remember who scored the first goal against Manchester United a month ago, which was the last match I attended), in which case in a year’s time you can say “There was this one match last season that made me take Xanax every 3 minutes. Was it against Spurs? No, I think it was in Europe actually. Was it AC Milan? Yeah, I think it was Milan. Anyway, that was some game”.
Robbie Di Matteo’s Chelsea looked alright-ish on the team sheet, without Bosingwa or Malouda in the starting XI, nor Meireles, not even on the bench due to a perhaps lucky suspension (depends on how much you rate him). The upsetting thing for me was the complete absence of Romeu who should be fully recovered by now. Is this a sign that RDM is going the same way as most other managers by playing the old guard? Like we have said many times before – and by we I mean myself and nearly every Chelsea supporter I know – our youth is our future. Maybe I am too quick to judge. After all, RDM has only had 3 games as Chelsea manager if I’m not wrong (there’s the memory again). Let’s observe.
The match took off as it usually does – pass-pass-pass, a few attacks leading to shots on goal, slowing down, pass-pass-pass – all in all players didn’t look very interested. No surprise there if you’re trailing 3-1 after the away leg and you’re playing against a very attacking team that started off with a much better pace as Chelsea. In fact, this is the strongest Napoli team we have seen in a very long time, who are also in great form. They attacked Chelsea’s goal again and again, but our Caped Crusader… oh wait, he doesn’t have a cape… and not even a mask anymore… well, Petr Cech saved us from the big threats. We have a lot to thank him for tonight.
That was Chelsea in the first half an hour – nothing spectacular. Then in the 29th minute Drogba scores a header from Ramires’ cross. The game picks up pace and Sturridge follows up with a shot but no one is there to tap it in. Nevertheless, we see a totally different game. The minimum requirement however is 2:0. And we got that after half-time when Captain Fantastic netted one. With that score we could have qualified already. But there was 40 minutes left to play, and Napoli were nowhere near backing out. Their goal was coming, and it didn’t take long for Gökhan Inler to pull one back for Napoli. Now we needed not one, but two goals to progress to the next round. Before the match I thought we couldn’t even get a two-goal lead, but now suddenly everything seemed possible. Chelsea responded with a few attacks on goal, so did Napoli, but the decisive moment came when Andrea Dossena handled the ball and we were rewarded with a PELANTY (No idea why people call it that really, would someone like to elaborate?)! The legend that is Frank Lampard took the responsibility to either leave us hanging or get us closer to Champions League glory. Luckily he delivered, and by full time we had three goals from the older generation. How 2006! Pensioners? We could argue they looked reborn.
In extra time Chelsea were the clear leaders – possession was in their favour and their tackles were more successful. The changes RDM made looked a bit dodgy to me, but they proved to be right decisions. First he took off Sturridge and brought in Torres. That took place right after Inler’s goal; therefore, replacing a dangerous striking force with an attacking striker who hasn’t scored in 24 hours did not look like the right decision at the time. After full time RDM brought in Malouda for Mata. Yes, I understand Mata was tired after 95 minutes, and also we can rarely accuse Malouda of conceding us goals, and he may even score one, but what if extra time had led to penalties? Wouldn’t you rather trust Mata to take them? Then he brought in Bosingwa for John Terry. So why not use Cahill who is just as good to start a game as Terry or Luiz? But I don’t know if it was luck or good tactics – somehow it all clicked. No, Torres did not break his barren spell, and Bosingwa did not make a magnificent save, but some of our players got their valuable rest and the substitutes didn’t screw up, so that’s a relief.
Extra time saw us take the winner. The winning goal was scored by none other than the owner of the best-looking behind in football, Branislav Ivanovic. He was actually one of the better players on the pitch tonight and I have nothing but praise to give to him. I hope his wife rewarded him with a steak tonight. His goal brought tears in my eyes, but that didn’t stop me from seeing how the players celebrated. I haven’t seen this much joy among the Chelsea boys in a long time. And Robbie’s celebrations were of course, legendary. Because of that, I am definitely warming up to him. It’s nice to see sparks of unity in the team again.
I would also highlight the performances of Didier Drogba who was bossing the game for a full 120 minutes despite having turned 34 this week, and also David Luiz who had Edinson Cavani in his pocket the whole time. No wonder he had to limp off the pitch. When it comes to Cavani who is one of the Napoli players linked with a move to Chelsea, I am not 100% sure it is a good idea now. He played like Torres – he was fully committed, got in the box a lot, but nothing made him score. Stamford Bridge could be his curse. On the other hand, Torres didn’t have that problem before switching his red shirt with a blue one. Discussion over, let’s carry on. So… mine, as well as many other girls’ favourite David Luiz was voted man of the match by the UEFA homepage. Hope his injury wasn’t very bad.
What else can I add? We weren’t given all the penalties we earned, but on a few occasions we were let off easy. In the end it worked out well because we progressed to the quarter finals.
There was some diving from both ends, Drogba being Chelsea’s main offender and Napoli had quite a few of them. The referee Felix Brych didn’t buy this acting which we can appreciate. Drogba’s diving towards the end of extra time might have made quite a few of us smirk because it’s just so typical of him, but it was also highlighted by haters in the media who had suddenly forgotten Chelsea had miraculously progressed into the Champions League quarter finals and are now the only English team still in the running. What a miracle that was!
Maybe it was just me, but I barely noticed Lavezzi on the pitch. Was he really that invisible? Cavani didn’t have a particularly good game either although he worked hard. I would highlight Aronica who looked a decent player. Not to mention De Sanctis, who made spectacular saves. Bringing in Dossena after Maggio’s early injury did make an impact as he was everywhere, but unfortunately for Napoli he is also to blame for one of the goals. Inler however, who absolutely bossed Napoli’s midfield tonight, compensated this with a beautiful goal. As a team Napoli were hard-working, attacking and enjoyable to watch. On a downside they made too many fouls and injured our boys. For future reference: do not play against an English side with a 3-man defence!
I can’t not mention the home supporters tonight. They were unusually loud and made me proud. Word of mouth claims that Cannavaro had said that they couldn’t hear each other on the pitch because of the noise. The power of fans can be so influential. Keep up the good work, lads!
I felt like we had won the league – that’s how incredible this game was. My heart skipped a ton of beats during the game and neutralised it by beating twice as fast as normally. The league title is clearly over for us, but the Champions League is still a possibility. Maybe this explains why we win 4-1 against a European club with world class talents, but fail to score more than one against most of our English opponents? I can’t analyse that at 6 in the morning so spare me.
Great job by both teams, but in the end Chelsea were the better team and we are the only English team in the Champions League. Now it’s time to start boasting before Arsenal and Manchester United.
Written by Annely
P.S. Words cannot describe how much I hate the rule that forbids players to remove their shirts on the pitch.
Please note : the views in many of our blogs are written by fans of Chelsea FC and are not necessarily the views of the club