Holy Shit, THAT is how it is done. Chelsea, through the strength of the “old guard” chewed up and spit out Napoli and are advancing to the Quarterfinals of the Champions League. They needed extra time to do it, but they got it done. Drogba opened the scoring with a brilliant diving header, followed soon after by captain John Terry’s header off of a corner. Napoli clawed one back with a magnificent volley from Inler, only for Lampard to
slot rip a PK in to make it 3-1. Ivanovic was the hero in OT when Drogba’s pass back found Ivanovic standing on the penalty spot and he cannoned it in. What a freaking game.
Some games you watch as an extremely biased analyst and some games you watch simply as a helpless fan, gasping and screaming in your living room like everyone else. This was definitely the latter. I’ll have to watch the game again to give a move detailed analysis, but I’ll do my best to keep my emotions in check and give you player ratings and MoTM awards:
Chelsea Man of the Match: Everyone. Is this corny? Absolutely. Do I care, not a bit; Chelsea just advanced in the CL! The Blues put together a complete team effort and completely deserved to leave that field with progression to the Quarter finals. If I had to list an individual MoTM award, I’d give it to Didier Drogba, but I feel that’s unfair to Lampard and Ramires who were both spectacular as well.
Napoli Man of the Match: Ezequiel Lavezzi. I was scared every time he touched the ball. His is lightning quick and fiery as well, not a good combination to play against. His stamina and work ethic is outrageous for an attacking winger and I still want him at Chelsea.
Chelsea Player Ratings:
Cech – 7.5. He did an excellent job making himself available for drops throughout the game and made smart decisions. He kept Chelsea in the game early on with a couple of big saves and provided consistency and communication for 120 minutes. Nothing he could do about the goal.
Cole – 8. Where has that performance been all season? Sure, his attacking moves are still minimal and I’m not sure he attempted more than 1 cross, but his energy was back to the old Ashley Cole. He never stopped running down the left side of the field and was always the first to step to a Napoli player when the ball was cleared out, even if that meant he was playing RB of DM for a little bit.
Luiz – 8. No-nonsense Luiz is awesome, he needs to stay all the time. He provided the speed Chelsea’s defense needed to see off the counter attacks and did an excellent job coming from “help” positions to cut off passes/dribbles.
Terry – 8. Captain, leader, legend. Terry showed why he will always be a legend at Chelsea and bullied Napoli around all game. His knee may not have been able to hold up to 120 minutes of soccer (more about that later), but his header gave us the crucial 2nd (and game winning at the time) goal and he led through example on and off the pitch.
Ivanovic – 8. Was Ashley Cole-like the way he got up and down the right channel and did excellent going forward. His crossing was much improved and of course, the goal. I was so happy that Ivanovic was the one to bag it because other than Terry, I’m not sure anyone shows more heart as consistently as Ivanovic.
Essien – 7. The Bison looked labored throughout the game and was a touch slow at times throughout the game. He provided a good physical presence in the center of the field and his positioning was great, but his loss of quickness and speed showed today.
Lampard – 9. Best game in years. Similar to Drogba, not sure where he summoned the energy from but it was amazing. He looked like an English Ramires out there, tracking players into Chelsea’s 18 and then turning around and getting into Napoli’s 18 for a look at goal. He was instrumental in moving the ball around the field and along with Essien, controlled the tempo of the game.
Ramires – 9. He played about 3 different positions today and excelled at every single one. His biggest strength shone through today when he was making people look like statues 120 minutes into the game. He was making runs and tracking players like he had fresh legs, not someone who had played in the 3 positions that require the most running (defensive wingers and CM) for 2 hours. Also, where did that touch come from?
Mata – 6.5. The fact that Mata was subbed off when Chelsea needed a goal should tell the story. This was an EXTREMELY physical game and Mata simply couldn’t handle it. Napoli gave him no space to receive the ball and as a result he spent more time on the ground than on his feet. He still made good decisions, as he always does, but was really unable to make a impact on the game.
Sturridge – 7. He didn’t play that poorly, he just didn’t play as well as the others were playing. He had a couple of good moments in the game taking players on down the right wing and he also did an excellent job of tracking back defensively. He was clearly upset that he was subbed out..
Drogba – 9. Drogba gave everything his 34 year-old body had and willed Chelsea to victory. He was all over the place and using his strength to fight for every ball in the air. His first goal was classic Drogba and his assist was more of the same. He played a CM/DM in the closing minutes and fought for every ball. A true warrior.
Malouda – 8. No-nonsense from Malouda today and it was just what we needed. He replaced Mata and Chelsea reverted to a 4-3-3 of sorts with Malouda holding down the left wing. He is much more physical than Mata and he was able to body players off the ball and use his speed to start some counters.
Torres – 8.5. Great game from El Nino. I would have liked to see him do better with the nugget Di Sancto dropped, but I am very very happy with his level of effort. He worked extremely hard the entire time he was on the field and his touch didn’t let him down for once as his dribbling was very good.
Bosingwa – 7.5. I was scared to death when I saw him being subbed on, but calmed when I saw Terry give him a pep talk when he went on. I knew there was no way he was going to do something stupid after Terry grabbed his head and said “We will all grow a unibrow if you don’t screw this up.”**
**I’m not a professional lip-reader, but I’m fairly certain that’s what was said.
Enjoy the rest of the evening (for those in the US) and soak it all in. We haven’t had a reason to feel this good in a long time. This is the kind of game we can look back at and say “that was the turning point.”