Many pundits had written off Chelsea’s Champions League chances after they slumped to a 3-1 defeat in Napoli. The sacking of their manager Andre Villas-Boas soon followed with former Chelsea and Italy star Roberto De Matteo called in as caretaker boss to the end of the season. Confidence had been restored with two consecutive victories but it still looked a tall order to pull back a two-goal deficit.
Di Matteo called up the old guard for this vital fixture that could make or break Chelsea’s season. Skipper John Terry, midfield general Frank Lampard and striker Didier Drogba were all given starting places in the line up and all three repaid their new manager by scoring in a stunning 4-1 triumph.
Napoli had the better of the early exchanges but it was Chelsea who went ahead when Drogba got on the end of a cross from Ramires in the 29th minute. Chelsea began the second half with an unlikely victory within their sights and skipper John Terry glanced in a superb glancing header from Mata’s corner. Chelsea were ahead in the tie for the first time since they took the lead in Napoli but they were stunned when Napoli struck back in the 55th minute. A headed clearance from Terry fell to Inler who smashed home an unstoppable half volley.
Chelsea quickly regrouped and were back on level terms when De Sanctis handled a header from Ivanovic and Lampard converted the penalty. With fifteen minutes remaining the tie was level and that is how it remained until half way through extra-time. Drogba managed to turn the ball across goal for Ivanovic who snapped up the opportunity to send the crowd into raptures. Chelsea managed to close out the victory and progress to the quarter-final. In doing so, they became only the fourth club in 45 attempts to recover from losing the first leg by two or more goals. They also ensure that England are represented in the quarter-finals of the competition.
In Wednesday’s other tie, Read Madrid comfortably saw off CSKA Moscow by four goals to one to seal a 5-2 aggregate triumph. The visitors missed a chance to move ahead in the tie when Doumbia fired over after ten minutes but they hardly got a look in afterwards.
Gonzalo Higuain converted Kaka’s pull-back to put them ahead before keep Chepchugov made a terrible mistake to allow a long range effort from Ronaldo to double their lead. Benzema sealed the tie with a third with twenty minutes remaining. A consolation goal for CSKA from Zoran Tosic was quickly answered when Ronaldo tapped home the fourth in injury time.
It was a comfortable night for Mourinho’s side, the only negative being a second yellow card for Xabi Alonso that will prevent him from playing in the next round. As impressive a victory as it was, there is no doubt that Chelsea made the headlines last night with their remarkable fight back.