NAPOLI 3 vs CHELSEA 1
CHELSEA manager Andre Villas-Boas lurched closer towards the Stamford Bridge exit door last night but defiantly insisted he would still be at the helm by the time Napoli arrive in west London in three weeks’ time hoping to terminate his side’s remote hopes of Champions League glory.
The 34-year-old’s decision to omit club stalwarts Frank Lampard, Ashley Cole and Michael Essien from his starting line-up initially looked like a shrewd gamble when Juan Mata stroked the visitors ahead after 27 minutes.
Defensive errors, however, allowed Edinson Cavani and Ezequiel Lavezzi to ensure Serie A again held sway over Premier League opposition following on from AC Milan’s destruction of Arsenal at the San Siro last week.
Villas-Boas (inset) has now presided over a run of five games without a win in all competitions and after last night’s damaging defeat the public backing he hopes the club’s hierarchy will offer him would appear to be anything but imminent.
Still, the Portuguese maintains Mata’s away goal could prove decisive in a last 16 tie that looks stacked firmly in Napoli’s favour.
Asked if he believed if he would still be in charge for the second leg, Villas-Boas said: “For sure. A one-goal disadvantage would have been a bit better but it is not impossible to recover 3-1.
“We will analyse strongly what we did wrongly because a couple of things need to get better.
“Napoli scored their third goal in our best period and it took us a little bit down but there is a big possibility, with this away goal, to turn the tie around.”
Mata’s opener – presented on plate to him following Paolo Cannavaro’s dreadful miskick – was cancelled out 11 minutes later when Lavezzi was allowed too much space to arc a low shot past Petr Cech from 20 yards.
The visitors were similarly negligent in first half injury time when Cavani escaped the attentions of Branislav Ivanovic and produced an outrageously improvised finish with his shoulder. And when David Luiz failed to intercept Hugo Campagnero’s long pass, Cavani was able to provide a simple pass which allowed Lavezzi the chance to double Napoli’s lead midway through the second half.