Napoli Uses Home Field to Its Advantage, Two Goals by Lavezzi Down Chelsea

Alex GiobbiAnalyst IFebruary 21, 2012

NAPLES, ITALY - FEBRUARY 21:  Juan Zuniga of Napoli holds off the challenge from Ramires of Chelsea during the UEFA Champions League round of 16 first leg match between SSC Napoli and Chelsea FC at Stadio San Paolo on February 21, 2012 in Naples, Italy.  (Photo by Mike Hewitt/Getty Images)
Mike Hewitt/Getty Images

SSC Napoli made its presence known in the first leg of the UEFA Champions League Round of 16, as they defeated an injury depleted Chelsea squad 3-1 at Stadio San Paolo. The Partenopei were led by Ezequiel Lavezzi, who spearheaded a very potent offense with two goals, and Edinson Cavani, who scored the tiebreaker that would keep Napoli ahead for the remainder of the game. The team played without head coach Walter Mazzari, who is serving a two game match ban.  

For the first 27 minutes of the game, it was a defensive stalemate, with Napoli threatening to score multiple times, Chelsea surprisingly held off these attempts through sheer luck. 

However, a scary collision involving Didier Drogba and Hugo Campagnaro nearly put Chelsea at a disadvantage. Fortunately for the Cote d'Ivoire star, he continued to play with no noticeable ill effects. Campagnaro, however, sustained a cut on his head which was covered by a medical cap.

In addition, Chelsea received even more discouraging news when unfit-to-start Ashley Cole was tabbed to replace Josh Boswinga, who was dealing with a leg injury. 

It wasn't until the 27th minute until the game broke, when, capitalizing on an error by Paolo Cannavaro, Chelsea's Juan Mata scored the opening goal. This served as a rally point for the Partenopei, who thanks to Lavezzi's first goal, were tied at the 33rd minute.

After halftime, it took 15 minutes for the second Napoli goal, a strike from young star Cavani. This would serve as the winning goal, as Chelsea just couldn't recover from the equalizer back in the first half, What probably hurt Chelsea was their attack formation that was supposed to net a second goal for the team.

Lavezzi provided insurance for the Partenopei with his second goal at the 80th minute, allowing the club to claim the first leg of their Round of 16 tilt.

Napoli and Chelsea will square off in the second leg at Stamford Bridge on March 14th, with the winner of the aggregate facing either CSKA Moscow or Real Madrid in the quarterfinal.