Chelsea’s Champions League hopes hang by a thread after they were beaten comprehensively 3-1 against Napoli in the first leg on Tuesday night.
Two goals from Ezequiel Lavezzi and one from Edison Cavani give Napoli the advantage ahead of the second leg clash at Stamford Bridge on March 14 but Juan Mata’s goal for Chelsea could prove important over the course of the tie.
Chelsea’s captain John Terry was ruled out of the match hours before kick-off so Chelsea started with a centre-back partnership of David Luiz and Gary Cahill, who was making his Champions League debut. However, poor defending from Cahill let in striker Edinson Cavani in the 10th minute with the flag staying down, but Chelsea keeper Petr Cech pulled off a smart save from the striker’s low shot.
Chelsea took the lead somewhat against the run of play in 27th minute. Napoli captain Paolo Cannavaro sliced his attempted clearance which looped over his head and into the feet of winger Juan Mata who slotted it past keeper Morgan De Sanctis to ease the pressure on boss Andre Villas-Boas.
Chelsea then started to stamp their authority on the match after the goal but they were caught cold by a Napoli equaliser from the brilliant Ezequiel Lavezzi in the 38th minute. Lavezzi turned past Meireles outside the penalty area and he curled home a lovely finish around Petr Cech and into the back of the net.
Napoli completed the comeback on the stroke of half time in controversial fashion. A wonderful ball into the box by midfielder Inler bounced in the six-yard box and Edinson Cavani, who scored three times against English opposition, Manchester City in the group-stages, got ahead of Branislav Ivanovic to put the ball into the back of the net with his shoulder. However, replays showed that it could be possible have been disallowed for a handball.
Napoli scored a third goal midway through the second half which could prove vital ahead of the second leg at Stamford Bridge. Campagnaro’s long ball was not properly dealt with by Chelsea’s David Luiz and Cavani stole ahead it to lay it on a plate for Lavezzi who fired home to send the San Paolo stadium wild. It could have been possibly worse for a deflated Chelsea side as Ashley Cole cleared off the line from Maggio’s shot late on but they will have go to improve massively in the second leg at Stamford Bridge to ensure that one English club will be in the quarter-finals of the Champions League this year.