UCL Rewind: Napoli push Chelsea to brink, Madrid stunned with draw & more

Napoli (Reuters Pictures)

By JOHN BOSCHINI

England is in danger of having no teams in the quarterfinals of the UEFA Champions League for the first time since 1995-96 after Chelsea were defeated by Napoli 3-1 in the first leg of the Round of 16.

Juan Mata's fortuitous goal midway through the first half was cancelled out by Ezequiel Lavezzi's brace and Edinson Cavani's goal just before halftime. Napoli continue to perform well against English sides with their victory over Manchester City effectively knocking the Premier League leaders out of the Champions League in the group stage.

Chelsea, who are now without captain John Terry for up to two months, have won only one of their last seven games, and the pressure continues to rise on manager Andre Villas-Boas.

Chelsea were gifted their early goal as mis-kick by Paolo Cannavaro put Mata in a great spot all alone in the middle of the penalty box. The Spaniard coolly slotted his volley past Morgan De Sanctis, and the visitors had the lead despite weathering a bunch of early pressure. It wasn't to last, though, as Lavezzi curled his first goal past Petr Cech in the 38th minute. Napoli then took the lead just before halftime when Cavani caught Chelsea sleeping and converted a cross from close range at the far post, running right at Branislav Ivanovic. 

Chelsea's defensive fragility reared its ugly head midway through the second half, when David Luiz missed his tackle on Cavani and the striker squared the ball to Lavezzi, who converted into an empty net, with Petr Cech well off his line trying to track down the ball in his area.

Chelsea were on the back foot for the rest of the game and were saved from going down 4-1 when Ashley Cole cleared Christian Maggio's shot off the line. Chelsea head back to Stamford Bridge needing to overturn a two-goal deficit but do have a vital away goal.

CSKA MOSCOW 1, REAL MADRID 1

CSKA Moscow are still alive in the Champions League after an injury-time goal from Pontus Wernbloom salvaged a shocking draw with Real Madrid. The visitors dominated large portions of the game and were up by halftime thanks to Cristiano Ronaldo but couldn't put the Russian side away. Real Madrid will rue the multitude of golden chances that, if converted, could have ended the tie after the first leg.

Real Madrid were obviously affected by the intense cold and plastic pitch in Moscow as the Russian side performed admirably in their first competitive game in nearly two-and-a-half months. Real Madrid were ahead in the 21st minute when a poor clearance from Aleksei Berezutski allowed Ronaldo to rifle in a shot from the middle of the box. Moscow goalkeeper Sergey Chepchugov kept the deficit at one with several quality saves, including a double-save in which he robbed Sami Khedira from point-blank range.

The second half saw more Madrid pressure but no goals to show for it. Ronaldo was clear in on goal for what would have been his second tally, but he put his shot wide of the left post. Moscow gained confidence in the final 10 minutes and challenged Madrid's backline, and that pressure was rewarded when Alan Dzagoev's cross was headed back across goal by Vasili Berezutski to Aleksei Berezutski. His header found the foot of Wernbloom, and the substitute guided the ball home just before the final whistle.

Real Madrid have reason to feel confident heading back to the Bernabeu, where they have not lost to any team aside from Barcelona, and they have the crucial away goal in hand.

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What did you think of today's games? Impressed with Napoli or disappointed with Chelsea? Confident Real Madrid can hold serve at home or can CSKA Moscow produce a shocking upset?

Share your thoughts below.

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11 Responses to UCL Rewind: Napoli push Chelsea to brink, Madrid stunned with draw & more

  1. K Bone says:

    Chelsea sure paid a lot of money for a manager who isn’t going to last the season. Not that it’s entirely his fault, not in the slightest. It’s always a shame that the manager gets the most blame. How was AVB supposed to account for Torres being terrible and his players’ performances in general this season…

  2. JP says:

    For the most part I agree with you. Now i could be wrong, but it seems as tho some of the players on the chelsea squad are getting long in the tooth and on the downside of their careers. Not to mention torres, who they paid to score goals and only has 3. I think a big issue is the Manager being young and the star players being older and really not respecting him. It would be interesting to see AVB get another season with the team being tweeked a little bit. But it doesnt look like that will happen.

  3. Polo says:

    That draw from CSKA was even more impressive considering they are in their off season!

  4. The Imperative Voice says:

    The season hasn’t been the best and you can say the players aren’t as good as Man City’s and are sitting about where they belong in the EPL, but one can’t even write the sentence that “the players have been terrible as is obvious with the fact they are playing (and, yes, losing) in the UEFA CL Round of 16 knockout stage today” without serious cognitive dissonance. That would seem to suggest AVB’s bunch of ne’erdo’wells are nonetheless one of the 16 best teams in Europe still.

    Yes, Torres has stunk in the EPL and pretty much in general. When a player appears once and stinks perhaps that’s the player’s fault if he is some marquee name, but when he appears every week and stinks that’s repeated bad coaching decisions.

    And I think you’re neglecting the basic fact CFC was up 3-0 on ManU and lost, which (a) suggests the present entity is good enough, though perhaps not great and (b) also suggest the coach sucks if he can’t even milk a 3 goal lead for 45 minutes. Anyone who watched that game witnessed AVB by tactics and subs taking his foot off the gas and bunkering and then paying for it. He then lost the team, which has apparently quit on him.

    FWIW, if he’s there to manage and the players have had it with him, yes, that would be unprofessional a bit, but if the players don’t want his management it’s easier to fire him than fire 30 first team players. Recall France at the World Cup. Leaving a disliked coach in place to show the players won’t bully the fed or the owner doesn’t usually work, cause the players play the games.

  5. CACuzcatlan says:

    Not anymore, they have changed the season to be fall-spring. Although even with the change, they are on winter break.

    link to en.wikipedia.org

  6. Polo says:

    Interesting, 18 month prolonged schedule. They still haven’t played a match since the 3rd week of November. That’s 3 months since their last competitive match.

    Stunning that they tied given the weather, the opponent, and that fact.

  7. Shounen Bat says:

    They really should have never gotten rid of Ancelloti. I mean, they went out against Inter (eventual champs) and Man U (eventual runners up) in his two years competed in Roman’s coveted UCL. Not bad, really. He also won the FA Cup and league in his first year, and secured an automatic UCL spot in his second. As you point out, with the money spent sacking Ancelloti and replacing him with AVB, Roman’s decision in this case is looking especially rash (and stupid).

  8. Romy says:

    Just finished seeing some real Copa action. WOWO! My boys from Colombia put on a clinic.

  9. alex says:

    Come on guys, give Napoli some credit … as much as Chelsea weren’t inspiring, some of the individual play from the Italians was.

  10. oscar rge griuycg says:

    “They really should have never gotten rid of Ancelloti.”

    word ta big bird.

  11. JP says:

    Agree. Serie A has had two dominant performances against EPL teams if you count the AC Milan trouncing of Arsenal…

    Quality is up this season in Italy…