Chelsea opened the scoring at the Stadio San Paolo but a trio of defensive errors cost the Blues dearly as Napoli came back to win 3-1. The story after the loss is going to be that Chelsea were blown out, which is probably unfair - the Blues did enough to earn something much closer to a draw and Napoli got some lucky breaks. So things go. It's also not an insurmountable deficit. The team is down by two and has an away goal, and Chelsea should be very capable of beating the Partenopei at Stamford Bridge in three weeks.
Some quick thoughts on what happened today...
- Andre Villas-Boas starting Raul Meireles in this match is a fireable offence for me. Napoli play incredibly well on the transition, whereas Meireles can't defend and gives the ball away in stupid areas. A lot of the pressure (and the first goal) could have been avoided had Meireles been stuck on the bench where he belongs. Fortunately, Raul will be suspended for the next match.
- Speaking of the midfield, Ramires played incredibly poorly. I don't want to pick on him because he's been superb this season, but that was some pants defending (and attacking play).
- It took way too long to get Michael Essien and Frank Lampard on. We looked far better with an actual midfield rather than having clown car and an off-colour Ramires in the centre. Another mark against Villas-Boas, probably, but he was put in a bind by the early injury to Jose Bosingwa.
- The goals were not the result of being unprepared to deal with Napoli's attacks. We had an individual error from Meireles for Lavezzi's first, Branislav Ivanovic reacting slowly to Edinson Cavani's run for the second, and a moment of madness in what was otherwise another strong game by David Luiz for Lavezzi's third. That said, Napoli did generate chances when the fullbacks were both pushed too high up the pitch, which was an obvious weakness for Chelsea.
- Ashley Cole wasn't 'dropped'. He was recovering from an injury. This isn't that hard to grasp. He did play reasonably well, however.
- We're still having issues with patience. There were stretches where Chelsea dominated the game but simply pushed Napoli too hard. The hosts weren't defending well and were opening themselves up by making rash challenges, but the passes Chelsea were playing didn't really take advantage of the spaces and actually pushed Napoli back into a more compact block. They were also far too risky - you absolutely cannot play blind flicks etc. when you're against a team as capable on the counterattack as this one.
- I think we're in for a legitimate shout of winning this tie over two legs. Napoli didn't show they were much better than us and for me the margin of victory didn't really reflect the performance. 2-1 would have been fair, but there's no reason Chelsea can't come back to win at home. Let's hope they can.
- Seriously what the heck Raul Meireles.