So it happened to be just another one of those nights. Facing a 3-1 deficit, Chelsea became only the fourth team in Champions League history to overturn a two goal margin and resulted in them being the only English team left in the tournament. An incredible team effort, one that had been missing on a regular basis this season.
Review of the players –
Cech – Kept the tie alive in the early stages, saves from Lavezzi and Hamsik were but to name a few, commanded his area at all times, dealing with any crosses aimed his way and was alert to any balls that were played over the top. He had no chance in saving Inler’s strike and was solid throughout.
Ivanovic – Match winner. His winning goal summed up a high tempo and chaotic match, to find himself on the edge of the penalty spot in extra time as a defender is one thing, but to finish the cross in the emphatic way he did was another. Frank Lampard was right when he said it was the finish of a striker. Grew tired towards the end and was struggling to cope with the pace of Lavezzi but when moved to centre back after John Terry was substituted, he controlled the back four and was brilliant.
John Terry – Captain, leader, legend. It will always be a fitting description, none more so than yesterday night. Defensively he was a rock at the back, as usual finding himself in between ball and goal on many occasions. His header at the beginning of the second half was another to add to the list of important Chelsea goals. Unfortunate when one of his headers found Inler on the edge of the box who volleyed home. Sadly had to be substituted late on but continued to captain the side off the field, helping Di Matteo in organising the team.
David Luiz – A risky selection some may have felt but he continued to prove his doubters wrong. Excellent from start to finish, he kept it simple at the back this time round and launched any loose ball as far away from the Chelsea area as he could, he even managed that with some Brazilian flair if possible. His occasional surging run allowed the rest of the team to regroup and even when he found himself injured towards the end of the game he maintained his performance and carried on to the end.
Ashley Cole – Similarly to Ivanovic his support in the attacking third was brilliant. It did mean that Napoli were able to expose the space left behind but it was vital that he was not restricted. Important challenges and the prevention of crosses were key to his good performance yesterday and although not one of his best in a Chelsea shirt it was still a great effort.
Michael Essien – Played a deeper pivot role and after looking a little lost in the opening half hour he began to dominate in midfield. Constantly breaking up play and retaining of possession was vital. Like Luiz he seemed to be carrying an injury towards the end of the game but this didn’t prevent him for carrying on in any way.
Frank Lampard – Along with Essien, he was little involved in the first half hour of the game, nevertheless like his midfield partner he found himself and produced a brilliant display of football. Tackling hasn’t always been his strongest point but yesterday he contributed with numerous challenges and was influential in supporting the attacks. His penalty was rifled into the corner and took his tally in the knockout phase to fourteen, equalling the most ever by an English player with Wayne Rooney.
Ramires – Possibly the man of the match in my eyes, he was everywhere. His work rate was phenomenal as ever, starting as a left winger he proved a handful for any Napoli player trying to contain him. Heavily involved in the first and last goal, one from the left and one from the right. His trickery and speed was at its best. Enjoying the attacking freedom he has been given by Di Matteo to play out wide.
Mata – The spaniard found it difficult at times in a physical contest but his creativity continued to shine. Whether it be clever passes to start attacks or mazing runs everywhere around the pitch he was great.
Sturridge – Bright and full of running in the first half, he attacked the opposition defence and looked to beat them with his pace. His crosses at times unlucky not to find their intended target after desperate slides from the Napoli defenders prevented them from doing so. He became less effective in the second and his work rate fell before being substituted.
Drogba – For the first twenty minutes I wondered whether this would be one of those games that Drogba doesn’t bother to play in. He proved me completely wrong. After heading in the all important first goal, the Ivorian imposed his presence on the game and anyone around him. The Napoli defenders seemingly afraid to challenge him in the air and he won virtually everything. Setting up the eventual winner he was brilliant throughout. Also never failing to entertain the crowd his brilliant time wasting ability reached new heights yesterday with an incredible array of exaggerated falls and prolonged recovery periods.
Substitutes – The introductions of both Malouda and Bosingwa at times were questioned but they were crucial in negating the wide threat Napoli posed towards the end and fresh legs were needed. Torres’ spell in the game was full of events as ever, his work rate was second to none. Hassling defenders and tracking the midfield and even Napoli forwards at times. Talk will inevitably be of his missed opportunity but his contribution was valuable and showed signs of a continued increase in form.
Just a quick note on the Napoli players, the ‘Three Tenors’ as they are known although didn’t find themselves on the scoresheet, showed what all the fuss is about. They found themselves creating chances on a regular basis and their work rate combined with incredible ability is more than admirable. Lavezzi in my opinion was the most dangerous of the three, concerns arose in the crowd whenever he touched the ball, constantly running around the pitch full of pace and power, his performance meant he moved up my summer ‘wishlist’ for Chelsea. The two players that usually get overlooked due to the brilliance of the front three are Maggio and Inler, the latter scored a wonderfully timed half volley whilst the former when he was on proved a constant threat, delivering dangerous crosses into the box.