Another disappointing 90mins for Chelsea Football Club at the San Paolo. Questions were being asked before a ball had been kicked when the team sheet was announced, the usual moans and groans at certain inclusions in the starting XI. The game however started out brighter than most expected , our attackers finding space with ease and the passing looked much sharper than recent fixtures gone by, this was not to say there weren’t times of worry, Cavani had an effort brilliantly saved by Cech when the striker broke the offside trap after a slip from Gary Cahill. After having started the game on the bench Ashley Cole was subbed on for the injured Jose Bosingwa to the relief of many before the player had enough time to make one of his trademark errors. It took 27 minutes for Juan Mata to open the scoring courtesy of a defensive mishap (which continued to be a theme of the game) by Hugo Campagnaro who sliced his clearance straight to the on-rushing Mata, who passed the ball into the net on the volley. The goal came about after a good passage of play by the blues involving the trio of Drogba, Sturridge and goalscorer Mata. Chelsea had a chance to double the lead when David Luiz’s header went just over the bar after De Sanctis found himself stranded out of his goal from the cross. Needless to say, the joy was short lived. Napoli continually threatened on the counter and it was in the 38th minute of the game when one member of the highly rated ‘Holy Trinity’ struck. Ezequiel Lavezzi picked up the ball on the edge of the box and with a drop of the shoulder lost Meireles which gave him the time to fire a curling effort into the corner passed Petr Cech. It wasn’t long after and just before half time when another member of the ‘Holy Trinity’ found himself on the scoresheet. Cavani shouldered in a brilliant cross from Inler, the striker forced his way round Ivanovic who was slow to react to the danger and showed why he’s earned the nickname “El Matador”.
The second half picked up where the first had finished, an open game in which the attacks of both teams seemed dangerous whenever on the ball. Chelsea did have a spell of around 10minutes in which chances were created but poor finishing and decision making inevitably led to no success. The disappointment was only compounded when in the 65th minute, this time David Luiz being the culprit of poor defending, failed to clear the ball properly and instead had his attempted flicked pass deflect of Cavani, who squared the ball to Lavezzi to place his shot into an empty net. It could’ve been worse for Chelsea if not for Ashley Cole’s goal line clearance, another to add to his collection.
The performance was again not what we had hoped for. Defensively, it was one of the worst performances. With all four members of the back line committing major mistakes at some point in the game. The holding midfield pair of Ramires and Meireles didn’t work, both looked uncomfortable with the duties of playing the holding role, misplaced passing and a lack of pressing a major issue throughout the game. The highlights of the team were the performances of the three behind Drogba; Sturridge, Mata and Malouda. The trio found space on a consistent basis and caused problems for the Napoli defence with their passing and dribbling. Sadly, the finishing left much to be desired, along with the performance of Didier Drogba who once again
did not seem to be at the races.
However, not all is doom and gloom. There should be hope going into the return leg back at Stamford Bridge. As this was not the hyped up Napoli team many expected, their defending was as poor as ours but clinical finishing on the day gave them the two goal cushion they now hold. To add more confidence to fans, Napoli have a very shaky away record this season and do not possess a great deal of Champions League experience. So, for those who will be in attendance for the second leg, don’t let them forget that they are far from their comfort zone of the San Paolo.
A positive outlook on a few of the players during the game; Overlooking (if you can) his now infamous kamikaze like error, David Luiz had another solid game pressing the opposition into mistakes and starting attacks. Florent Malouda, surprisingly to many, looked like the old Flo Mo, running at defenders and worrying the opponent when in possession of the ball. As ever Juan Mata was somewhat of a standout performer, finding holes between the midfield and attack and being heavily involved in any positive move Chelsea did find themselves in. Finally the contribution of Petr Cech should not be forgotten, even in a 3-1 loss he played a major role in ensuring there was no further damage inflicted and kept the hopes of progressing in the Champions League, well and truly alive.