The bay of Naples nestles beneath Mount Vesuvius, a volcano which hasn’t been truly explosive since burying Pompeii in AD 79. Likewise Chelsea’s explosive days are behind us and our fans are wondering whether AVB is currently stoking up the fire and we’re about to erupt into form or instead pouring water on the remaining embers and turning the players into petrified statues.
Pundits making a big deal of Ashley not playing and implying it’s an insurrection involving the senior players but isn’t the simple truth that Ashley’s had an injury, he’s not fully fit and it’s a heavy pitch. Personally I think right-back is Bosingwa’s least comfortable position so I’m happy to see him at left-back.
As the teams walked onto the pitch the size of the mascots made me question my belief that Italian food, with olive oil and natural ingredients, is healthy eating. I might revert to Kentucky Fried.
The first half
Early collision between Drogba and Campagnaro which left Campagnaro with a large serving of Napolitana sauce down the side of his head. Campagnaro played on looking more like Ena Sharples with a hair net.
Early relief, Bosingwa’s pulled his hamstring. Maybe there is a God?
This game is surprisingly open.
15 minutes gone and less sideways passing at the back. That could be because we haven’t got the ball.
20 minutes gone and we’re doing better than Arsenal.
25 minutes gone, we’re not great but playing better than in recent weeks. Starting to question whether I should be feeling more optimistic.
26 minutes GOAL for Mata. Defensive error and the ball fell nicely for Mata to stroke home from six yards. AVB is a tactical genius and motivator of men.
Not easy to pass on this pitch. Stevenage laid on a better surface.
Drogba’s fairly clumsy but he is trying to lead from the front and be a talisman.
Relieved that the referee isn’t being suckered by the cheating Italians.
We’re flying the flag better than British Airways.
35 minutes and Luiz came close with a header from a corner kick.
38 minutes and Naples have equalised. AVB is a tactical prat and couldn’t light a bonfire in a volcano.
We’re winning on away goals.
40 minutes and a great move from Ramires but he blasts it over the bar. Both defences look suspect and I forecast more goals.
Ramires is showing poor control and giving the ball away in dangerous areas.
46 minutes, crap defending and we’re behind 2-1. Just when the pundits were panicking that they’d have to re-think their half time criticism of Chelsea they can now revert to script A.
The second half
At least we’re attacking which is unusual compared to recent weeks but this game is so open I’m starting to feel sick.
53 minutes and Ramires makes a great Chopper-style tackle.
54 minutes Naples miss a simple one on one.
I’m sure neutrals are enjoying this but I’m feeling our performance is professionally negligent considering the amount of space we’re leaving.
60 minutes and I’m quite enjoying Gary Neville’s co-commentary. Is that wrong of me? He’s said a couple of times that we’re better than them and if we “play properly” we can win this easily. It sounds so simple doesn’t it, “play properly”.
64 minutes GOAL 3-1 to Naples and Luiz shows his true colours and gives the ball away in the box. We’re now in a head to head fight with Arsenal for bringing the most shame on England.
69 minutes and Essien and Lampard on for Meireles and Malouda. Let’s see what the old guard can do.
80 minutes and we’re carved open again but a lifesaving goal line clearance from Ashley. That would have ended it.
92 minutes and a decent strike from Frank. Life in the old dog yet.
The full time summary
At 1-0 I thought there were signs of Vesuvius re-igniting but I was mistaken. It was just some tourists having a barbecue on the slopes. The game was open, crazy stuff with both teams running from end to end. It was schoolboy football but for us it’s understandable because we’ve got a schoolboy managing the team. What was Napoli’s excuse?
On the one hand a 1-3 deficit isn’t insurmountable. All we need to do is score twice and not concede and obey Gary Neville and play properly. Do I think we can score twice? Do I think we won’t concede?
I’ve declared myself to be in the ‘let’s keep AVB camp’ but I’m starting to think being the Greek Minister of Finance is a more defensible position.
No doubt AVB will declare “we’re still in three competitions”.
The press reports
The Independent, Sam Wallace: “As Andre Villas-Boas will know, for all managers, there is a very fine line between tactical genius and a reckless failure and last night was one of those occasions when he will have known from the moment he submitted his team-sheet to the Uefa official that it could go either way. Leaving Frank Lampard, Ashley Cole and Michael Essien out of the team in a game that could well define Chelsea’s season will be regarded by some as the equivalent of handing in an 11-line suicide note. But it can also be seen as the moment that he asserted his authority over the old regime of Chelsea and told them that, however great the need, he will not simply slip back into the old ways as he tries to forge a new future.”
The Guardian, Daniel Taylor: “These are the moments when Andre Villas-Boas, for all his outward confidence, could be forgiven for wondering how much longer a man with Roman Abramovich’s lack of tolerance is prepared to stand by him when the evidence of Chelsea’s deterioration is so overwhelming. His team were not as dishevelled as Arsenal had been against Milan at San Siro last week but, at times, they were not far off.”
The Daily Telegraph, Henry Winter: “Andre Villas-Boas’ beloved project went up in smoke in the shadow of Mount Vesuvius on Tuesday night. The Chelsea manager’s belief in players like Raul Meireles proved calamitously costly, leaving an ordinary defence exposed time and again to the counter-attacking verve of Napoli’s Ezequiel Lavezzi and Edinson Cavani.”
The Official Chelsea FC Website: “A spirited display could not prevent the game turning on its head following Juan Mata’s opener in Italy, yet we remain very much in this Champions League tie.”