Napoli vs. Chelsea  3 - 1

Article

Cahill crushed by Napoli defeat

22 February 2012 17:01

Chelsea new boy Gary Cahill has described himself as 'ridiculously disappointed' following his side's Champions League defeat to Napoli.

Tuesday's 3-1 loss was Cahill's debut in the competition following his move from Bolton in January.

A goal from Edinson Cavani and a double from Ezequiel Lavezzi cancelled out Juan Mata's opener in what the 26-year-old described as a low night for himself.

"I'm ridiculously disappointed," he told reporters.

"(I'm) disappointed with the result, the night, the Champions League debut. So it was a pretty low night for myself, actually."

Despite the final score, the defender was encouraged by his team's start to the encounter, though he does concede he was frustrated at their inability to see the game out.

"It started off brilliantly. We were frustrating them early doors, they made a mistake and we got the goal," he said.

"For some reason, it seemed really open after that instead of really solid."

"We should have shut the door, made everything really compact and gone in at half-time 1-0 up, but it wasn't to be. I think we were too easily cut open."

"The goals came from a lot of long balls, which is bread and butter for people like myself. If we were getting caught open it might be different, but it was bread and butter things that went wrong."

"They had good players all around the pitch, but I think we made their job a little bit easier."

Despite the crushing defeat, Chelsea did score a potentially crucial away goal, meaning a clean sheet at Stamford Bridge would leave Andre Villas-Boas' men needing just two goals, something Cahill is well aware of.

He continued: "We are still in it. To score two goals at Stamford Bridge is by no means beyond the realms of possibility."

"The third goal killed us a little bit, but we need to pull our finger out in the next leg and put in a better performance."

Article

Cavani delights in Napoli display

22 February 2012 05:20

Edinson Cavani claimed Napoli defeated a powerhouse of world football after their 3-1 Champions League win over Chelsea on Tuesday.

Chelsea went into the game without a win in five games in all competitions, but the Uruguay international felt that Walter Mazzarri's men made a real statement of intent during the last-16 first-leg clash at the San Paolo.

"Napoli have beaten a powerhouse of world football," Cavani declared on Sky Sport Italia after the game. "Now we have an additional awareness of our strength."

The forward played a key role in his side's triumph, scoring one goal before then setting Ezequiel Lavezzi up for his second, and Napoli's third.

However, Cavani was reluctant to accept too much praise for his performance.

"It was an extraordinary match by all, not just me," Cavani said. "We prepared to perfection and we saw the results tonight."

Article

Cahill bemoans simple mistakes

22 February 2012 04:07

Chelsea defender Gary Cahill felt his side got the basics wrong in their 3-1 Champions League loss to Napoli on Tuesday.

Cahill – signed from Bolton in the January transfer window – was disappointed that his side made rudimentary errors, which allowed Napoli to win well in the first leg of the round-of-16 match.

"The most disappointing thing today was that the goals came from a lot of long balls, which is bread and butter really for people like myself," Cahill said.

"If you were getting cut open then it would be different. We were frustrating them early doors, they made a mistake and we got the goal. We should have shut the door from then."

"For some reason it seemed really open after that instead of really solid, which we should have been. We should have just shut the door and made everything compact and gone in at half-time 1-0 up, but it wasn't to be. Like I said, we were too easily cut open tonight."

Juan Mata was the man who gave Chelsea the lead after he benefited from Paulo Cannavaro's mistake at the back.

And the Spaniard feels his goal has kept the English Premier League outfit alive in the tie ahead of the second leg at Stamford Bridge.

"There was a bad bounce for the centre-back and I just had to score," Mata said.

"It was an important goal, but with their three goals, we have to win 2-0 at least. I think we are able to do it."

"It was a good start 0-1, but we didn't keep the score. I think an away goal was important for us, but they are a very strong team here in (Stadio) San Paolo and now we have to win the second leg."

Article

Villas-Boas hopeful despite loss

22 February 2012 03:09

Andre Villas-Boas insists Chelsea can still progress to the Champions League quarter-finals despite their heavy defeat at Napoli on Tuesday.

Chelsea scored first through Juan Mata at Stadio San Paolo, but an Ezequiel Lavezzi brace and an Edinson Cavani goal gave Napoli a 3-1 win in the first leg of their round-of-16 tie, a handy buffer to take to Stamford Bridge on March 14.

Villas-Boas lamented his side's defending and is hopeful they can turn around the deficit in three weeks time.

"After the first goal I think we had a big chance to go 2-0 up - big missed opportunities," Villas-Boas told Sky Sports.

"Then we should have done better defending. (We made) a couple of mistakes which, against Napoli, with their attacking strength, are going to get punished. I think that the third goal was perfectly avoidable."

"If it had been a one-goal advantage at home, it would have been better, but the third one is more difficult to recover – not impossible, of course, because of the amount of chances that we get and the environment that we must get at the Bridge to turn this tie around."

"The first 90 minutes have passed but we have 90 minutes ahead of us and we have to turn the tie around, analyse strongly where we went wrong, and have the knowledge that we can create problems because, with our attacking options, we created problems today."

The under-fire coach was bullish when asked if he would still be in charge for second leg.

"Yeah, for sure," he said. "I don’t think it makes a difference (if the board back me publicly). You have to put things into perspective."

"I have the full confidence of the owner with the message that I have from him all the time to do my job."

Napoli coach Walter Mazzarri was delighted with the win, but was slightly disappointed that Christian Maggio squandered a chance to make it 4-1 late on, when his shot was cleared off the line by Ashley Cole.

"We could have scored the fourth goal but we were unlucky with the Maggio shot in the final minutes," he said.

"It's a pity because we would have been calmer with a three-goal lead. Chelsea are very strong at home so we need another great performance there."

"We are fully aware that we are not in the quarter-finals yet."

"This team keeps on surprising me. After starting well we did fantastically to react after conceding like that. It's normal to not always be at 100 percent but we have never failed in the big games this season."

Article

Champions League: Napoli 3 Chelsea 1

21 February 2012 23:04

Napoli have taken the upper hand in their Champions League round-of-16 tie with Chelsea, winning the first leg 3-1 at home on Tuesday.

Juan Mata put Chelsea ahead after 27 minutes at Stadio San Paolo, but an Ezequiel Lavezzi double either side of an Edinson Cavani goal mean Napoli will take a two-goal advantage into the second leg at Stamford Bridge on March 14.

Under siege Chelsea boss Andre Villas-Boas dropped Fernando Torres and Frank Lampard to the bench, while Ashley Cole was also among the substitutes in favour of Jose Bosingwa.

Napoli started well, with Petr Cech called into action early when Cavani evaded Gary Cahill in the box and shot with venom before the goalkeeper saved well with his foot.

Having started the game ahead of Cole, Bosingwa was forced off with an apparent hamstring injury just over 10 minutes into proceedings, prompting the left-back's introduction.

There was a worrying moment for the visitors when Lavezzi attempted a pinpoint pass through the defence, but Cavani strayed offside and the danger passed.

Chelsea found the breakthrough in the 27th minute. Throwing large numbers forward, they put home skipper Paolo Cannavaro under pressure and the defender mis-kicked as he tried to clear Daniel Sturridge’s pass and succeeded only in playing in Mata, who finished coolly.

Napoli got back on level terms just over five minutes before the break. Cavani, on the turn, played it square for Lavezzi on the edge of the area. The Argentine had no trouble moving past Raul Meireles before curling the ball into the bottom corner with a sublime right-footed finish.

Chelsea came forward immediately after the restart, Ramires advancing unchallenged through the middle but the Portuguese midfielder blasted his effort well over.

Just as it seemed the visitors would reach half-time on equal standing, Cavani got past Branislav Ivanovic as they raced to meet a cross from deep on the right. The Uruguayan reached the back post and threw his shoulder against the delivery, doing enough to divert it into the net and secure a lead at the break.

Napoli started the second half looking to counter and should have extended their lead when Cavani, leading a break through the Chelsea lines, set Lavezzi up with a through-ball after Cahill moved out of position, but the Argentine dragged his effort wide.

Chelsea were throwing huge numbers forward and had chances: Malouda mistimed a volley in the box before Drogba nearly found his way between two defenders, with Salvatore Aronica just getting a foot in to put the ball out.

The Blues were dominating but David Luiz made a horrendous mistake in the 65th minute when attempting to deal with an innocuous long pass forward from Campagnaro.

He flicked it away with flair but succeeded only in surrendering it to Cavani, who once again passed square to Lavezzi. The forward dispatched it with ease to earn his side a two-goal cushion.

Villas-Boas looked to wrestle back control by summoning Lampard and Michael Essien from the bench but chances dried up at both ends.

Chelsea were lucky not to see a fourth go past them when, with 10 minutes to go, Cavani held the ball up on the edge of the Blues’ area before laying it off to Marek Hamsik, who controlled and swivelled past a defender before playing it across for the waiting Christian Maggio.

The right-back tried to sweep it in but Cole kept it out on the line, though the Italian should have done better.

Chelsea laboured late in search of another away goal, with Lampard hitting a testing long shot into Morgan De Sanctis' arms in stoppage time, but it ended with Napoli in control of the tie.

Article

Champions League preview: Napoli v Chelsea

21 February 2012 08:51

Under-fire Chelsea boss Andre Villas-Boas may start injury-hit captain John Terry in their Champions League tie with Napoli on Tuesday.

Despite insisting he has the unconditional support of owner Roman Abramovich ahead of the first leg of the round-of-16 clash, an embarrassing home draw with Championship side Birmingham in their FA Cup fifth-round tie on Saturday, after three games without a win in the Premier League, would suggest otherwise.

The London outfit have slipped to fifth in England's top flight and with leadership question marks plaguing the inexperienced Villas-Boas, his decision to select the stricken Terry could prove to be the defining moment of a darkening season on Tuesday.

"I will leave it as late as possible and make a decision on him after training in Naples," Villas-Boas said.

"(Terry) is a great leader, gives you an extra emotional push. He's a player of great importance."

"They have a strong front three with (Marek) Hamsik, (Edinson) Cavani and (Ezequiel) Lavezzi."

Of interest, too, will be Villas-Boas' use of Frank Lampard, who looked less than impressed coming on as a second-half substitute against Birmingham.

All this will be music to the ears of Napoli manager Walter Mazzarri and after advancing from the competitions toughest group, which included the likes of Manchester City and Bayern Munich, he admitted Napoli 'are in better shape' than their beleaguered opponents.

Napoli have arrested a lean run with back-to-back victories in Serie A, the latest a clinical 3-0 dismissal away to Fiorentina.

A confident Mazzarri, who will not be on the bench due to a two-game touchline ban after he pushed Nilmar during their qualification-clinching 2-0 win over Villarreal, knows his side are facing Chelsea with the odds stacked in their favour.

"We are in better shape than Chelsea going into this game, but they have champions who are accustomed to playing a certain level of game," Mazzarri said.

"On Tuesday they know that they cannot make a mistake, so will become unified and I doubt we'll be facing a team in crisis."

Doubts remain over defender Hugo Campagnaro, who limped off during the win in Florence, while Ashley Cole remains sidelined for Chelsea with a calf strain.

The tie may come down to Napoli's vaunted front trio with the uncertainty in Chelsea's defence.

Cavani bagged a brace against Fiorentina and Villas-Boas knows only too well the damage either of the three could do to his hopes of remaining at Stamford Bridge.

"Cavani is an amazing player. They are a danger. Their strength is in the collective spirit. They have an inner belief in each other. It will be a massive challenge. Everyone saw what Napoli did in a group which put Manchester City out," Villas-Boas warned.

Article

Villas-Boas up to Chelsea challenge

21 February 2012 07:25

Andre Villas-Boas has defended his position as Chelsea manager, claiming he would not have left Porto if he was not confident he could succeed.

The Portuguese manager arrived at Stamford Bridge last summer, having spent only one season at Porto - during which he won the Liga Sagres title, domestic cup, Europa League and going an entire season unbeaten at Estadio Dragao.

However, the 34-year-old manager still has great belief in his ability to change the structure of Chelsea, something which he believes is a necessity, and to bring more trophies to Stamford Bridge in the future.

"This is the richest part of Chelsea's history and we want to perpetuate that into the future - but we have to make changes," he said.

"I wouldn't have moved if I didn't feel confident I could take this challenge through."

Villas-Boas has overseen a number of changes to the playing staff during his short time in charge, including the arrivals of Raul Meireles, Oriol Romeu, Gary Cahill, Juan Mata, while reducing the roles of the likes of stalwarts Frank Lampard and Didier Drogba.

Yet, while Villas-Boas has the future in mind, he understands that he has a duty to supporters to be successful in the present.

"There is great belief in what we're going to do next year, but we have responsibilities this year and speculation is normal," he said.

"I'm really confident about next year. We have a three-year project to change the culture and structure. There is a lot we plan to do."

"We're still confident we can do well in the Champions League and FA Cup."

If the Blues are to claim their first Champions League title this season, then they must see off Walter Mazzarri's dangerous Napoli side. However, the Portuguese man does not believe the result in Italy on Tuesday evening will be pivotal with the return leg still to come.

"Whatever happens will not be decisive for the tie. We have an opportunity at the Bridge as well," he said.

Nonetheless, he is more than aware of the threat that playing at San Paolo - where Manchester City succumbed to a 2-1 defeat earlier this season - holds for his side.

"Napoli's strengths at the San Paolo are amazing. They have built up a lot under Mazzarri. The way Napoli represent their crowd, there is a mood between the fans, the team and the city," Villas-Boas said.

"Mazzarri has done an excellent job."

Article

Hamsik awaits Chelsea clash

20 February 2012 13:37

Napoli star Marek Hamsik is eagerly anticipating their round-of 16 first leg against Chelsea in the Champions League on Tuesday.

The Slovakia international said the Serie A outfit are faced with their biggest challenge this campaign, when Andre Villas-Boas' side visits the Stadio San Paolo.

"It will be a great game. It's the match of the season for us. The return of the Coppa Italia semi-final against Siena is obviously important as well, but the Champions League is fascinating," Hamsik told Il Corriere dello Sport.

"It will a real treat for our fantastic fans, and for the team itself."

"Chelsea in a crisis? That's just something the news papers write. They have won only one of their last six games, though."

"It could be a favourable situation, but we have to be careful. Chelsea are a big team with some great players. We want a good result and will do our utmost to achieve just that."

Article

Cavani talks up Napoli chances

14 February 2012 06:22

Edinson Cavani has warned critics not to write off Napoli's chances against Chelsea in the Champions League.

The Serie A outfit reached the knockout stages in the UEFA competition after finishing above Manchester City and Villarreal in the 'Group of Death'.

Ahead of next week's last-16 tie against Chelsea, Cavani warned the Blues that Napoli are a force to be reckoned with.

"We have already sent out a message to the world: we can defeat anyone," Cavani told Mediaset Premium.

"Chelsea must be careful with us."

The Uruguayan ace helped Napoli break a four-game winless streak in Serie A with a 2-0 victory over Chievo on Monday and admitted the win was a weight off their shoulders.

"We had a good match in terms of intensity, character and desire," Cavani said. "We are happy, these are three important points ahead of our trip to Florence."

"This was a difficult moment, but I think we responded the way we wanted."

Napoli and Chelsea meet in the first leg of their Champions League tie on Tuesday February 21 at Stadio San Paolo.

Serie A table

# Team MP D P
1 33 +49 87
2 33 +49 79
3 33 +28 67
4 33 +19 58
5 33 +20 53

Premier League table

# Team MP D P
1 34 +51 77
2 34 +42 75
3 33 +54 71
4 34 +18 67
5 34 +21 66