Wed, 22 Feb 2012 08:55:15 GMT

Napoli stun Chelsea 3-1 in Champions League encounter

Naples, Italy: Ezequiel Lavezzi and Edinson Cavani again dampened English hopes by leading Napoli to a 3-1 win over Chelsea in an entertaining first leg of their Champions League last-16 matchup.


Napoli stun Chelsea 3-1 in Champions League encounter

Cavani, who struck a brace against Manchester City to eliminate the Premier League leaders in the group stage, was again in inspirational form as he gave Napoli the lead at halftime, before setting up Lavezzi's second in the 65th minute.

Lavezzi had earlier scored with a curling shot to equalize after Juan Mata gave Chelsea a surprise lead following a mistake by Napoli captain Paolo Cannavaro.

It is Chelsea's fifth match without a win and means there is likely to be no English team in the quarterfinals after Arsenal lost 4-0 at AC Milan last week.

Only three teams have come back from two goals down in a second leg.

"I want to be the fourth,'' Chelsea coach Andre Villas-Boas said. "We're sure we can turn it around at the Bridge because of the chances we had tonight. Being clinical in front of the goal was the difference between the two teams. Napoli was efficient in front of goal and we weren't. We made a couple of mistakes and Napoli took advantage of those opportunities.''

Chelsea was without captain John Terry, and the club announced before kickoff that the defender needs knee surgery and will be out for up to six weeks. Terry's absence told as Napoli breached the Chelsea defense time and time again.

"We have to focus on reorganizing the relationship between the back four,'' Villas-Boas said. "We have to solve these issues at the back so we can profit more from the opportunities we have. ... The first two goals we had more numbers back, and if we were more organized they wouldn't have scored.''

It could have been even worse for Chelsea as Napoli wasted several opportunities to extend its advantage, most notably when Ashley Cole cleared Christian Maggio's close-range shot off the line.

"It is a pity that we didn't get the fourth, with Maggio's chance,'' Napoli coach Walter Mazzarri said. "That would have helped us and we would have been more calm going to London. Chelsea was strong, as we knew they'd be. We were great, especially up front and in reacting to Chelsea going ahead. We had a difficult 15 minutes but then we equalized and grew from there.

"Napoli had great chances tonight but it won't be easy in London. Chelsea are capable of scoring two goals at home so we have to take our opportunities. There's the great disappointment not to have scored a fourth, we had so many chances to and we deserved to.''

Napoli got off to a bright start and could have taken an early lead but Lavezzi miscontrolled a good through ball from Gokhan Inler and Petr Cech gathered the danger.

As Napoli pressed, a mistake allowed Florent Malouda to rob the ball and race toward goal, but Cannavaro made a perfectly timed tackle just as the Chelsea striker was about to shoot.

The home side almost went in front in the ninth minute when Marek Hamsik picked out a completely unmarked Cavani on the left of the area. Cavani has scored three goals in his last two Serie A games to take his tally to 15, but the Uruguayan was denied by a great leg save from Cech.

Napoli was looking more and more dangerous and seemed certain to take the lead but Chelsea gave an early warning it was not to be ignored when a long throw from Cech to Malouda caught the Napoli defense napping and goalkeeper Morgan De Sanctis did well to clear.

However, it was mainly one-way traffic and Maggio saw a fierce cross-goal shot kept out by another impressive Cech dive.

Chelsea stunned the Stadio San Paolo crowd in the 27th minute when Cannavaro gifted the visitors the lead by diverting a cross straight into Mata's path, and the Spaniard calmly slotted the ball into the left corner.
The Premier League side almost doubled its lead but Davide Luiz headed Mata's corner narrowly over.

Napoli drew level in the 38th when Lavezzi collected the ball on the edge of the area before curling it into the bottom right corner past Cech's outstretched hand.

Ramires had a great chance to restore Chelsea's advantage moments later but he blazed his effort well over.
Chelsea was to regret that missed opportunity as Cavani put Napoli in front on the stroke of halftime, bundling home Inler's cross from almost on the goalline for his fifth goal in seven Champions League appearances this season.

The visitors almost drew level immediately after the break but Hamsik cleared off the line following a scramble in the Napoli area.

Napoli should have extended its advantage when the ever-dangerous Cavani raced down the right flank before releasing Walter Gargano for what looked to be a certain third goal but, one on one with the goalkeeper, he fired narrowly wide of the right upright.

Chelsea improved as the match went on and came close to the equalizer on several occasions, notably when Didier Drogba muscled his way through on goal but Salvatore Aronica and De Sanctis combined to clear the danger as the Ivory Coast international bore ominously close to goal.

Instead, Napoli extended its advantage five minutes later. Cavani turned his marker well and passed across the outside of the area, past an outrushing Cech, for Lavezzi to slot into an empty net.

Napoli almost scored again as Cech flapped at a cross but, with the goal gaping, Cavani slipped and Maggio then saw his effort cleared off the line by Ashley Cole.

Source: AP

videos

more videos

get connected