Chelsea through after thriller

PA Sport
Branislav Ivanovic
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Branislav Ivanovic

Chelsea's old guard rescued their Champions League season and the reputation of English football as they produced one of the great European comebacks to reach the quarter-finals.

Didier Drogba, John Terry and Frank Lampard - the men the sacked Andre Villas-Boas seemed so determined to discard - proved just how difficult they would be to replace with a goal apiece in a thrilling extra-time win.

Although Gokhan Inler netted for Napoli at 2-0, Branislav Ivanovic settled the tie on the stroke of half-time in extra-time on a night every bit as historic as Chelsea captain Terry had predicted.

Napoli's much-vaunted attacking trio all threatened early on, Marek Hamsik first to go close when his deflected shot from Ezequiel Lavezzi's pass almost wrongfooted Petr Cech. Edinson Cavani curled over before missing a great chance when he steered Hamsik's low cross into the side-netting. Lavezzi also blasted at the feet of Cech.

The hosts took the lead completely against the run of play in the 29th minute. The ball was worked to makeshift left-winger Ramires, whose right-footed cross saw Drogba get in front of Salvatore Aronica to power a header into the net. Napoli were reeling and Hugo Campagnaro got a vital touch to prevent Drogba tapping home Daniel Sturridge's cross.

Napoli's nerves cost them dearly straight after the restart when Campagnaro was spooked into conceding a corner and Terry glanced a brilliant near-post header into the net.

Napoli's were back ahead in the tie in spectacular fashion in the 55th minute. Inler controlled Terry's headed clearance on his chest before unleashing a superb half-volley into the bottom corner. Caretaker boss Roberto Di Matteo - who had been about to send on Jose Bosingwa before the goal - instead chose to introduce Torres for Sturridge.

The game went into extra-time and Ivanvovic flashed a header wide and Hamsik did likewise with a wonderful volley. Di Matteo then withdrew Juan Mata for Florent Malouda and an injured-looking Terry for Bosingwa.

Torres missed a glorious chance when Morgan De Sanctis came rushing out and misjudged Drogba's long ball, leaving the striker with a tight angle but an empty net he failed to find. Despair turned to joy seconds before half-time, Drogba's superb turn and cross finding Ivanovic, who lashed the ball into the roof of the net.

Napoli sent on Goran Pandev for Hamsik but Chelsea were untroubled and Drogba almost scored a fifth. The result means the Blues became only the fourth club in 45 attempts to come back from losing a first leg by two or more goals, ensuring England's run of having at least one Champions League quarter-finalist since 1996 continues.

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