Goalkeeper Petr Čech admitted that Chelsea FC's cavalier instincts were at the root of their two-goal UEFA Champions League defeat at SSC Napoli but insisted that all was not lost, stressing: "The away goal was important."
André Villas-Boas's side have a mountain to climb when they host Napoli in three weeks' time, needing to overturn a 3-1 deficit to reach the last eight, but the Czech international said there was still plenty to play for at Stamford Bridge on 14 March.
Juan Mata's 27th-minute opener gave the Blues the lead and a precious away goal that might have been complemented by further strikes had David Luiz and Daniel Sturridge not sent presentable chances over the bar. Instead, a splendid Ezequiel Lavezzi effort brought the home team level and Edinson Cavani then put the Azzurri ahead in first-half stoppage time.
"We went 1-0 up which was very good for us, but unfortunately we conceded a goal and then they scored on the stroke of half-time," Čech told UEFA.com. "I think there were about one or two minutes to go and we should have kept the scores level going into the break. Without that goal, the second half would have been a different story but [the goal meant] they could sit on a 2-1 lead and just wait to hit us on the counterattack. Eventually they got another chance and they scored from it."
It was especially galling for the 2008 runners-up to concede a second Lavezzi goal – after 65 minutes – having enjoyed such a healthy early advantage, yet had it not been for Čech, who made a string of fine saves on his 81st appearance in Europe's premier club competition, Chelsea might now be contemplating an irreversible deficit. The Londoners threw caution to the wind and were almost swept away.
"We attacked a lot because of the way the match unfolded," added the 29-year-old. "We didn't want to commit so many players forward but every time we went forward we created chances and had some shots on goal. Sometimes we threw too many numbers forward, which gave them goalscoring chances, but we will learn from that in the second leg. Now we have nothing to wait for – it is up to us to overcome a two-goal deficit."
Against a Napoli side for whom counterattack is the default setting, lowering the Partenopei's colours will be no easy undertaking, but Čech believes Mata's strike could prove critical. "The away goal was important and we will see in the return leg whether or not it makes a difference," he said. "If we don't win, it will have no meaning, but if we overcome the deficit and go through then the importance of that goal will have been major."
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