Villas-Boas had called for this game to be a rallying call, despite Chelsea’s ailing season. A win would have ensured an easy home-leg fixture, as well as reassured his players and fans. Unfortunately his tactics - and some sloppy, undisciplined defending - left them with a two goal deficit in a game in which they should have done better.
Having left Lampard, Essien and Cole all on the bench, Villas-Boas seemed to have approached this game like it was an easy FA Cup 3rd round draw rather than a must win, European encounter. The starting line-up seemed shaky from kick-off, with Napoli taking the game to the visitors. All too often the defensive line – especially David Luiz and Gary Cahill – were caught napping and it was only because of two excellent saves from Petr Cech that the visitors weren’t 2-0 down within 15 minutes.
In the 27th minute, against the run of play, Mata found the back of the net for Chelsea. Drogba passed to Sturridge, who quickly sought out the Spaniard. Napoli defender Campagnaro failed to intecept and Mata side footed the ball into the back of the net.
However it wasn’t long before the home side were level when Napoli striker Lavezzi picked the ball up from outside the Chelsea box. Meireles failed to close him down and the Argentinian drove his shot past Cech. Seven minutes later Napoli were ahead. Gokhan Inler crossed the ball into a dangerous position and Ivanovic failed to see Cavani runs, who chested the ball in the goal. The replays show that there was a possibility that it had actually come off Cavani’s arm but the goal stood and Chelsea were trailing by a goal.
In the second half Chelsea started strong, with their best movement of the game. Despite Napoli’s defending, which at times was horrendous and sluggish, Chelsea couldn’t find a way through. Shots from Mata, Drogba and Malouda were all denied. Chelsea were punished for their failure to score when Campagnaro hoofed a lofted ball down the channel. David Luiz made a hash of clearing the ball and it came to Cavani who played in Lavezzi to win the Italians the game.
Chelsea now face a tough task of turning around a two goal deficit in three weeks’ time when Napoli visit Stamford Bridge. And with their current poor form continuing, the chances of the Londoner’s progressing through to the next round is poor.