So against the odds Chelsea have managed to make it to the quarter-finals of the Champions League. It is a historic moment, as they have become only the third English club to turn around a two-goal deficit in the second leg of a European tie. Here’s a few things we learned from the game…
The old boys must be played in Europe
The view on the inclusion of senior players seems to change completely in response to whatever the result is each week for Chelsea. If they were left out under AVB then apparently it was because he had fallen out with them all and if they were included Chelsea were criticised for allowing too much player power at the club. I don’t think a team half-filled with 30-somethings is the answer to competing in everything, however, the experience and more importantly passion for this competition were pivotal in our advance to the next round. Drogba especially seems to turn it on for the Champions League. He often looks disinterested against smaller teams in the Premier League, but last night as he was against Valencia in the last group stage game, he was at his beastly best. It was a great header to take the lead in the first half and his work to turn and set up Ivanovic’s winner was also incredible. The score sheet alone can silence the “player power” debate for at least one game – Di Matteo definitely got it right on the night.
Di Matteo has already left his mark on Chelsea history as a manager
He was already a Chelsea legend, particularly for his absurdly quick goal in the FA cup final in 1997, but with a win as dramatic as this he will always be remembered for his time in charge as well as a player at the Bridge. Since taking over from AVB he hasn’t exactly reinvented the team that the Portuguese had been picking, aside from the daft inclusion of Kalou against Birmingham and Stoke. However, what we do get from Bobby D is untamed passion – his celebrations on the pitch last night were an emotional sight. Will he have a shout at being full-time manager? Unlikely. A big name coach is likely to come in. Although Saturday’s chants of “Rafa Benitez, you’re not wanted here” are a clear indication of what the crowd would prefer to see and I’m sure if he got offered a longer contract, Di Matteo would take it.
I don’t think a team half-filled with 30-somethings is the answer to competing in everything, however, the experience and more importantly passion for this competition were pivotal in our advance to the next round.
Stamford Bridge can rock when it wants to
The Bridge often gets a reputation for having an atmosphere almost as tame as the Emirates but last night when Ivanovic’s winner shook the net in front of The Shed, the stand shook right along with it. Not to mention the joy and the buzz at the sound of the final whistle and One Step Beyond.
Napoli are one of the most exciting teams in Europe - but this is their downfall
As much as I can continue to revel in really having something to cheer about for the first time in a while – it would be a travesty to talk about the game without a few words for Napoli. They were the better team in the first half and are a genuine pleasure to watch. The lead we took was mostly against the run of play and to be honest it felt inevitable that they would find a goal at some point. That being said the exciting nature of their play contributed to their downfall almost as much as their poor defending. It allowed the game to be open enough that they squandered their two-goal advantage and their marking and dealing with aerial threats also helped us through. Terry lost his marker with relative ease in scoring Chelsea’s second goal and the space left around Ivanovic as he netted the winner was suicidal.
Chelsea have not turned a corner
There’s no two ways about it this was a truly glorious win and I drank in every minute of it on a special night in west London however, to look at finishing in the top four in the league is still an incredibly tall order when comparing our run-in to Arsenal’s. We’re probably better off hoping Tottenham’s poor run continues as Arsenal look like they will confidently see that they finish with Champions League qualification. The fixtures away to Liverpool, Arsenal and in the near future Man City, not to mention hosting Tottenham at home, are all games we will be hard pushed to collect three points from but last night’s game will at least raise the confidence. For now though I’ll take being in the hat tomorrow and having at least two more Champions League games to cheer on.
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