Chelsea reach Champions League quarters after thrilling win

March 15th, 2012 - 4:52 pm ICT by IANS  

Fernando Torres London, March 15 (IANS) English club Chelsea overcame a 1-3 first leg deficit against Italy’s Napoli to book a place in the quarterfinals of the Champions League football, winning the return leg 4-1 at Stamford Bridge.

Chelsea, trailing from their defeat at Napoli last month, were led by a spirited performance from their Ivorian striker Didier Drogba. Chelsea qualified for the last eight of the competition with a 5-4 aggregate score.

Though it was not all plain sailing for Chelsea, Napoli were the team that started the game well. Edison Cavani, Ezequiel Lavezzi and Marek Hamsik, the holy trinity of Napoli, looked to give Chelsea the blues yet again.

Petr Cech in Chelsea goal had to beat away a deflected shot from Hamsik in the opening few minutes. Cavani too put the Chelsea defence under pressure but his shot thudded into the side netting.

The Londoners to their credit did not give up and Daniel Sturridge’s brought about a reflex save from Napoli keeper Morgan De Sanctis.

Drogba soon sent the Stamford Bridge faithful into wild celebrations. Ramires cross from the right wing in the 28th minute was met by Drogba’s diving header, which finished in the back of Napoli goal.

Chelsea now needed one more to advance to the next round and shortly after the break, captain John Terry gave his team the crucial goal by heading in a Frank Lampard corner.

All Chelsea had to do now was keep a clean sheet. However, midfielder Gokhan Inler silenced the crowd with a brilliant half volley from just inside the D to get the visitors back in the game.

The home team needed to score another goal to take the game into extra-time. In the 75th minute, Branislav Ivanovic’s header struck the hand of Andrea Dossena inside the penalty box and much to the disappointment of the Italians, the referee pointed at the spot. Lampard smashed in the ensuing penalty to score Chelsea’s third and send the match into extra time.

Spanish striker Fernando Torres, who has been woefully out of form, replaced compatriot Juan Mata late in the second half. He could have given Chelsea their fourth goal as Sanctis made a complete mess of Drogba’s hopeful cross but Torres from a tight angle missed the goal entirely.

With penalty kicks looming large, both teams started playing end to end football and it was Chelsea that came out on top. On the stroke of first half, extra time, Ivanovic slammed the ball in the back of Napoli net from a Drogba cross to take the score to 4-1.

Chelsea held on till the end of extra time to complete a remarkable win. The draw for the last eight will take place Friday.

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