Old guard send Chelsea through
Branislav Ivanovic scored a dramatic extra-time winner as Chelsea completed a remarkable comeback to defeat Napoli 4-1 and advance to the quarter-finals of the UEFA Champions League.
Serbian international Ivanovic swept home emphatically in the 105th minute to give Chelsea, who were beaten 3-1 by the Italians in last month's first leg in Naples, a 5-4 aggregate victory at Stamford Bridge. It was only the fourth time in modern history of the Champions League that a team has successfully overturned a two-goal first-leg deficit.
The match had gone to extra time after a pulsating period of 90 minutes which saw Chelsea battle to a 3-1 win that left the last-16 tie locked at 4-4 on aggregate.
Chelsea had taken a 2-0 lead on the night through headers from Didier Drogba and John Terry, putting the Blues ahead on away goals. But Gokhan Inler restored Napoli's crucial advantage with a 55th-minute strike before a Frank Lampard penalty 15 minutes from time hauled Chelsea back into the tie to electrify the crowd.
"It was a fantastic game with two great teams. We made history because we were in such a difficult position before the game," said Chelsea's interim manager Roberto Di Matteo. "We knew what we had to do to get through. It was an outstanding performance."
Terry, meanwhile, said it was one of the club's greatest nights. "We showed what Chelsea are all about. We were solid and resilient and fought until the very end. We've proved we're a team. Players came in and we stuck together when it really mattered," he said.
Chelsea had carved out the first chance of a frenetic opening period when Drogba held off his marker to chest a long throw into the path of Daniel Sturridge, whose first-time volley was well saved by Morgan De Sanctis. But thereafter Chelsea were rocked onto the back foot as Napoli's fleet-footed attack, with Ezequiel Lavezzi, Marek Hamsik and Edinson Cavani to the fore, repeatedly pierced the home defence almost at will.
Hamsik was the first to test Petr Cech on ten minutes, the Chelsea goalkeeper just managing to block the Slovakian international's low shot with his legs. Napoli were soon on the attack once again, Christian Maggio bursting down the right flank to shoot for Cavani, who just diverted into the side netting.
With Napoli causing havoc down Ashley Cole's flank, the chances continued to come for the visitors. A superb ball forward from Inler sent Lavezzi racing clear and the striker's low shot forced Cech to save smartly once again after only 15 minutes. Moments later and Cech was pressed into action once more, saving Hamsik's low shot as the visitors swarmed forward once more.
But having weathered the early storm Chelsea then grabbed the goal their fans had been craving. Ramires swung in a perfectly flighted cross from the left and Drogba timed his run to perfection before heading powerfully past De Sanctis to trigger bedlam at Stamford Bridge. The goal signalled the start of Chelsea's best period of the half, with Sturridge flashing a shot across the face of goal which Hugo Campagnaro turned behind.
Chelsea started the second half as they had finished the first, and within two minutes had surged into a 2-0 lead to leave them ahead on the away goals rule. Lampard swung a corner in from the right and Terry timed his run to perfection to glance a looping header up and over De Sanctis.
Yet just as it seemed as if Chelsea were ready to take an unassailable grip on the tie, Napoli clawed their way back into the contest with a moment of brilliance from Inler. A headed clearance from Terry found the Swiss international on the edge of the area and the midfielder controlled the ball on his chest before driving home a thunderous shot from the edge of the area.
The goal silenced Chelsea, but slowly the Londoners regained their momentum, with Ivanovic and Drogba both threatening. On 74 minutes the Napoli defence cracked when substitute Andrea Dossena handled Ivanovic's header for a certain penalty. Lampard stepped up to drive in the spot-kick and send the match into extra time.
Ivanovic sends Blues through
Ivanovic flashed a header wide and Hamsik did likewise with a wonderful volley. Di Matteo then withdrew Mata for Florent Malouda and an injured-looking Terry for Bosingwa.
Torres missed a glorious chance when De Sanctis came rushing out and misjudged Drogba's long ball, leaving the striker with a tight angle but an empty net he failed to find from a tough angle. Despair turned to joy seconds before half-time, though, as Drogba's superb turn and cross found Ivanovic, who lashed the ball into the roof of the net. Napoli sent on Goran Pandev for Hamsik, but Chelsea were untroubled and Drogba almost scored a fifth.
The 5-4 aggregate result has continued England's run of having at least one club in the Champions League quarter-finals since 1996.