by David Triggs
After 90 minutes in Napoli a few weeks ago, the Chelsea team looked down and defeated, but following AVB’s sacking they looked completely rejuvenated at the Bridge last night.
Chelsea started the game relatively brightly, with Sturridge having a good chance early on, but the Italian visitors looked extremely dangerous on the counter attack, with Cavani going close.
On 23 minutes, Didier Drogba was on the receiving end of an exquisite pass from Ramires, and came up with a typical Drogba header. 1-0 Chelsea on the night.
The first half fizzled out into nothing, and at the break, Chelsea were half way towards their target of Champions League progression. Into the second half, and a hopeless ball forward was spooned behind by the Napoli’s Aronica for a corner. Mata whipped a delicious ball in, and JT flicked the ball into the far corner. 50 minutes gone, as if it stayed as it was, Chelsea were going through.
Then came the moment where Chelsea not only pressed the panic button, but literally hammered the shit out of it. A surge of Napoli pressure led to an absolute stonker of a goal from Gokhan Inler. The midfielder came up with a half volley from the edge of the box, reminiscent of Gerrard’s vs West Ham in the 2006 FA Cup final. Chelsea now needed a goal, just to take it to extra-time.
Chelsea needed a goal, so obviously, on comes Fernando Torres. (Cue the English neutral pissing themselves in front of their TV screens.) Some excellent build-up play from Torres did lead to a chance for Drogba, but the Ivorian’s volley was tipped around the post by the Napoli ‘keeper.
The minutes ticked down, and Chelsea’s pressure increased and they looked especially dangerous from set pieces with numerous corners making the Napoli defenders shit themselves. On 72 minutes, a Lampard corner was flicked on by Torres and struck the arm of Dossena. The ref pointed to the spot, and Fat Frank stepped up, and drilled the ball home. 3-1. Cue an AVB-esque celebration from Di Matteo and Chelsea were back on track.
With extra-time looking a more realistic possibility by the second, chances were few and far between following the Blues’ third goal, and the game was gradually become a rather scrappy affair. A strong Drogba penalty claim was turned down, and with the game becoming extremely stretched, the referee sentenced the game to extra time.
Into extra-time then, and a Hamsik volley went just wide, and quite probably would have broken someone’s soul had they been in the way of his shot he hit it that hard. Napoli were looking the better of the two sides in the opening exchanges of extra time. Malouda came on for Chelsea replacing Mata after 5 minutes of extra-time. Goal-scorer, Terry, was also replaced before the break seemingly due to an injury. On 9 minutes, a long ball forward was misjudged hideously by De Sanctis and the ball fell to Torres, who from a difficult angle and amazingly enough…missed it! With half time of extra time approaching, tidy work from Ramires on the right, played the ball into Drogba who put the ball across to Branislav Ivanovic, who tucked away into the roof of the net to put Chelsea firmly in the driving seat.
The second half got underway, and a heavy spell of Napoli pressure was building. With 6 minutes remaining in the tie, a hoof forward from Cech, lead to a foul on Drogba, and Chelsea were given a free-kick in a very good position. However, Drogba drilled it straight into the wall.
Time ticked down and Napoli failed to create any real chances. In the final minute of additional time, a mistake from Napoli lead to a 2 on 1, and Malouda’s ball to Drogba was slightly in front of the Chelsea striker and he sliced wide.
The full-time whistle was blown and Chelsea were through. Napoli were out and Di Matteo was licking his lips. Stamford Bridge erupted, and Chelsea had got what they wanted. Credit has to be given to David Luiz, Ramires and Drogba who were all vital in Chelsea’s progression in the Champion’s League.