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Chelsea floored by slick Napoli comeback

Published: Tuesday 21 February 2012, 22.48CET
SSC Napoli 3-1 Chelsea FC
Ezequiel Lavezzi scored twice as the hosts came from behind to earn a stunning first-leg advantage to take to Stamford Bridge in three weeks.
by Richard Aikman
from Stadio San Paolo

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Published: Tuesday 21 February 2012, 22.48CET

Chelsea floored by slick Napoli comeback

SSC Napoli 3-1 Chelsea FC
Ezequiel Lavezzi scored twice as the hosts came from behind to earn a stunning first-leg advantage to take to Stamford Bridge in three weeks.

SSC Napoli will head into their round of 16 second leg well placed after coming from behind to complete a rousing 3-1 win against Chelsea FC.

Ezequiel Lavezzi was the architect, cancelling out Juan Mata's 27th-minute strike with his first UEFA Champions League goal and after Edinson Cavani's effort on the stroke of half-time edged the Partenopei in front, the Argentinian resumed centre stage with his second of the night.

Victory was no less than the Serie A side deserved as, urged on by deafening home support, Napoli made all the running. Initially attempting to bypass a high defensive line with searching balls, they might have taken the lead inside the opening ten minutes when Paolo Cannavaro's crossfield pass released Lavezzi. Petr Čech intercepted swiftly, and then denied Cavani with his legs after Gökhan Inler's incisive pass.

Chelsea's injury woes worsened when Ashley Cole, deemed unfit to start, had to replace José Bosingwa on 12 minutes. Canny Napoli duly switched their focus to their right flank where Christian Maggio hared through, following a one-two with Lavezzi, to force another save from Čech. Chelsea had hitherto only attacked sporadically and it seemed their best chance of a goal would come from a defensive error.

Morgan De Sanctis almost provided one when he flapped at a long ball under pressure from Didier Drogba, before being rescued by his rearguard. Cannavaro was not so lucky, miscuing Daniel Sturridge's low centre into the path of Mata, who finished coolly. The visitors visibly gained confidence, and nearly found another away goal when David Luiz headed Mata's corner over with De Sanctis again failing to meet a cross.

Napoli were not silenced for long. Seven minutes before the break they levelled in sublime fashion as Lavezzi received Cavani's square pass, turned on to his right foot 20 metres out before curling in his first UEFA Champions League goal. In an open game Sturridge raced into the area as the Azzurri's defence parted, but blazed over. It was a mistake he would rue as Cavani duly put Napoli in front, getting ahead of Branislav Ivanović and forcing Inler's bouncing cross in at the far post.

Chelsea threw men forward in the second half in a bid to snatch a second away goal but shots from range by Mata and Florent Malouda were comfortable enough for De Sanctis. Salvatore Aronica made a crucial challenge to deny Drogba on the hour but André Villas-Boas's side were lucky not to be two goals down when Lavezzi dragged wide with only Čech to beat after another counterattack involving Cavani.

It was only a matter of time, though. On 65 minutes Cavani muscled his way past Luiz on the right, and teed up Lavezzi, who this time made no mistake. Chelsea again foraged forward, threatening from set pieces, but they were indebted to Cole for keeping them in the tie ahead of the second leg at Stamford Bridge in three weeks. With ten minutes left the defender cleared Maggio's shot off the line after a mazy run and cutback by Marek Hamšík.

Last updated: 10/12/13 10.28CET

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