Ezequiel Lavezzi and Edinson
Cavani combined to spark Napoli's 3-1 win over Chelsea
in their Champions League last 16 first-leg match on Tuesday
that deepened the gloom hanging over the London club.
The South American pair made the difference in a match where
the visitors had taken the lead through Juan Mata before
squandering two more chances and putting under-fire manager
Andre Villas-Boas under yet more pressure.
Lavezzi scored Napoli's first and third goals, the first of
the competition for the Argentine and both laid on by Cavani who
notched the other himself.
The prolific Uruguayan took his tally
to six in the Champions League and 19 in his last seven outings.
Napoli's win left England in danger of missing out on the
quarter-finals after Arsenal, the Premier League's only other
team in the last 16, were thumped 4-0 at AC Milan last week.
It also left Villas-Boas facing more questions about his
future as the poor run of form continued for the London team,
who have won only two of their last 10 Premier League games and
who drew against second tier opponents in the FA Cup last
Asked if he expected to be in charge by the time his side
host Napoli for the return leg on March 14, the Portuguese told
Sky Sports: "Yeah, for sure."
Chelsea's day had got off to a bad start with news that
captain John Terry could be sidelined for several weeks after
aggravating a knee injury and it soon got worse.
"After the first goal, we missed opportunities to go 2-0 up
and then we should have defended better but we made a couple of
mistakes against Napoli with their attack you are going to get
punished," said Villas-Boas.
"I think the third goal was perfectly avoidable... we can
create problems with our attacking options and we created
problems [for them] today.
"It is a game of efficiency and Napoli had it. I think the
statistics are very similar for both teams. Both teams created a
lot. The game was open."
Napoli were missing coach Walter Mazzarri who was banned for
both legs after he was sent off for pushing Villarreal forward
Nilmar in a group match, a move he said was intended to
galvanise his team.
They were fired up enough without him, although Lavezzi
refused to get carried away, saying: "I was happy to score but
the important thing was that the team won. We haven't qualified
Napoli, unbeaten at home since returning to European
competition in 2008 following a 13-year absence, were quickly on
the attack and goalkeeper Petr Cech twice prevented Chelsea from
shipping an early goal.
He saved a dangerous Cavani shot with his foot and then
turned Christian Maggio's angled effort around the post as the
Italians quickly showed their attacking potential with fast,
But the visitors went ahead with their first real chance
after Napoli captain Paolo Cannavaro sliced Daniel Sturridge's
cross and the ball fell at the feet of Mata, who beat Morgan De
Sanctis with a first-time shot
Brazilians David Luiz and Ramires went close for Chelsea as
the usually passionate Sao Paolo stadium went eerily quiet.
beat De Sanctis to a corner but his header just cleared the bar
while Ramires fired over from the edge of the area.
The crowd came back to life in the 38th minute when Cavani
fed Lavezzi on the edge of the area and he curled a delightful
shot inside the near post, although the Chelsea defenders
allowed him too much space for the shot.
Chelsea's rearguard got into another mess in first-half
added-time as Gokhan Inlan delivered a teasing cross which
bounced six metres from goal and Cavani stole in front of two
defenders to fire Napoli in front with his shoulder.
The visitors started the second half brightly with Florent
Malouda having a shot saved by De Sanctis and Didier Drogba just
failing to take advantage of confusion in the Napoli defence.
At the other end, Chelsea had a let-off when Lavezzi missed
a golden opening and Gary Cahill was lucky to escape with yellow
card for a dangerous late tackle on Lavezzi.
But the Argentine was not to be denied and fired the third
goal with a shot into the far corner in the 65th minute after
Cavani blocked Luiz's clearance and laid the ball on a plate for
his striking partner.
Marek Hamsik had a close-range effort cleared off the line
10 minutes from time while substitute Frank Lampard saw a
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