Chelsea 4 Napoli 1 ( 5-4 aggregate)
Report of match 14th March 2012
Reporter Paul Lagan
Sensation at the Bridge
Brilliant Chelsea blitzed Napoli 4-1 at Stamford Bridge record a sensational Champions League victory which blasted them into the Quarter Final of this season's competition
A pulsating match from start to finish saw the Londoners overturn a seemly impossible 1-3 deficit from the first leg three weeks ago.
A side on the slide, a team in turmoil was the description of this team under the tutelage of Andre Villas-Boas.
But following the inevitable sacking of the Portuguese manager, the players seem to reinvent themselves into an unstoppable machine.
But despite the rout in scoreline, this Napoli team were dangerous and it made for 120 minutes of scintillating drama.
The away side's tactic was to get an early goal, silence the crowd and stroll to victory. But it was Chelsea who had the first exchange after five minutes when Daniel Sturridge saw his low right- footer from just outside the Napoli area saved well by Morgan De Sanctis.
Five minutes later and live wire Ezequiel Lavezzi saw his effort wrong foot Petr Cech, but the goalkeeper scrambled the ball to safety.
The away side should have scored on 14 minutes but Edinson Cavani shot into the side netting.
But the goal was eventually pierced on 29 minutes and it came from the home side.
A fine cross from the left by Ramires saw a diving Didier Drogba direct a powerful header beyond the reach of De Sanctis.
The crowd erupted, the tie was back on. Cavani had a shot go just wide seconds before the break as the away side showed their intention of going for goal.
Chelsea needed a two-goal margin to go through and within two minutes of the restart, they got just that.
Direct from a corner from Frank Lampard, captain John Terry jumped above the congested six-yard area to glance a header into the top of the Napoli net.
Napoli, to their credit, kept going forward in search of the goal to take them through, and their enterprise was rewarded on 55 minutes when a brilliantly taken pile driver from Gokhan Inler from the edge of the Chelsea penalty area, zipped past a hapless Cech.
Interim boss Roberto Di Matteo, who seconds earlier was hoping to bring on defender Jose Bosingwa changed his mind and brought on misfiring Fernando Torres instead.
The script was set for the Spain forward to reward the crowd - but It was not to be. Instead old guard Lampard took the match to 3-1 when he dispatched a powerful penalty with 16 minutes on the clock remaining after a Branislav Ivanovic header was handled in the area by Inler.
Drogba could have snatched victory with five minutes of regulatory time left when a technically perfect turn and shot in one movement saw the ball arrow towards the bottom corner of the net, but De Sanctis produced a spectacular save.
So the game entered extra - time, and even during the opening exchanges it looked as if the gifted Italians would overrun the tiring Londoners.
But two wayward efforts from Torres galvanised Chelsea and incredibly after 105 minutes of drama they got the fourth goal.
Ramires on the right found Drogba, and the Ivory Coast striker sent in a low cross into the box.
The ball fell invitingly to Ivanovic who smacked a forceful right- footer into the roof of the Italian net.
The game still on a knife edge as another Napoli goal would see them through on goal difference.
But with all the players fully concentrated and with the imperious Drogba urging even the crowd to give more, Chelsea saw out the remaining minutes to produce the comeback of their lives.
Quite what Di Matteo has done to turn this ragbag of misfits into producing their finest performance in three years is anybodies guess. It's just a shame for Villas-Boas that Di Matteo did no let on that particular secret when his was his assistant.
The draw for the Quarter Final of the Champions League place on Friday.
Teams - Chelsea, Cech, Ivanovic, Cole, Luiz, Essien, Ramires, Lampard, Mata, Drogba, Sturridge, Terry. Subs, Turnbull, Torres, Mikel, Malouda, Bosingwa, Kalou, Cahill. Napoli- De Sanctis, Aronica, Cavani, Maggio, Campagnaro, Hamsik, Zuniga, Lavezzi, Gargano, Cannavaro, Inler. Dubs, Rodati, Dossena, Vargas, Dzemaili, Fernandez, Pandev, Britos Referee Feliz Brych (Germany)