Once again Chelsea took the lead away from home in a Champions League tie, and just like they did in the group stages, they let that led get away as they 3-1 in Napoli in the first leg of the Champions League round of 16 tie.
It was three really poor goals that Chelsea gave up in Italy tonight. And it really cost them because this is not a great Napoli side, and I believe Chelsea can get more than the two goals they need to progress at Stamford Bridge in three weeks.
With John Terry out for six weeks due to his knee injury, Andre Vilas-Boas threw a couple of surprises into his line-up leaving Cole, Lampard, Torres and Essien on the bench. Maybe a sign of the AVB going with the players that he trusted?
This was probably the most open-ended Champions League game I have ever seen, with neither side seemingly able to defend.
Right from the start the Chelsea back four of Ivanovic, Cahill, David Luiz and Bosingwa. It never looked solid and Cech had to make two good saves in the first ten minutes to keep Chelsea in the game. After 10 minutes Bosingwa pulled a hamstring and Ashley Cole came on, and for the next 30 minutes Chelsea looked good.
Chelsea took the lead when Juan Mata took advantage from a shocking defensive error by Cannavaro to get that all important away goal. And it should have been 2-0 soon after when David Luiz beat the Napoli goalkeeper to Mata’s corner, only to head over the bar.
But then Chelsea’s defensive frailties kicked in as Meireles and Ramires failed to close down Lavezzi and he scored from the edge of the box with 8 minutes left in the half.
Then in added time in the first half, Chelsea gave up a second goal. Meireles failed to close down the Napoli player who has plenty of time to knock in a cross to the back post where Ivanovic stood and watched as Cavani scored.
Both goals were really poor from Chelsea’s perspective.
In the second half Chelsea dominated the game pressing for a equalizer and Napoli hit them on the counter attack. Still, all David Luiz needed to do was kick the ball out for a throw-in and the danger would have been cleared. But he tried to be cute, and Cavani took the ball off him and it was 3-1. That was a huge goal to concede. At 2-1 the return leg at Stamford Bridge looks much easier. At 3-1, it is a much harder task.
Going forward I thought Chelsea looked good tonight, and they caused the Napoli back three all sorts of problems. The problem was Chelsea’s defense. AVB set up with two holding midfielders, Ramires and Raul Meireles and both of them got overrun by the Napoli midfield, giving little protection to their back four.
And Chelsea’s back four needed all the help they could get. Every time Ivanovic tried to get forward Napoli just counter-attacked down his side. And in the middle of the park, David Luiz and Gary Cahill looked totally lost and out of their depth. Not having John Terry until sometime in April is a huge loss because Chelsea will leak goals with that pairing in the center of the Chelsea defense.
So Chelsea has left themselves a huge bridge to climb if they are to stay in this competition, but because of how poor Napoli are defensively, Chelsea are not out of this tie by any means.
What did you think of the game?
Originally published on our Chelsea Blog