Roberto De Matteo's first three matches in charge have produced a 100% winning rate, none bigger or more important than the one today against Napoli who came in with every expectation of going to the Champions League quarter-final stage after their 3-1 spanking in the first leg. They have ruled the Serie with possibly one of the most dynamic attacks, the unstoppable Edinson Cavani, the human dynamo Ezequiel Lavezzi, and in Gokhan Inler and Marek Hamsik, two of Europe's top rated midfield generals.
What was not to like about their chances? And the first half hour had everything except a Napoli goal. That was before Chelsea re-discovered that old ruthless streak of punishing their opponent's Achilles heel to the fullest. And so it proved that Napoli for all their attacking intent was somewhat like Arsenal on set pieces. Shaky. Indecisive. Unfocused. And who better to get on that gravy train than Didier Drogba? He was given oodles of space by Aronica (the after effects of that Ibra slap seems to linger on) to head home Ramires cross. From a Lampard corner, Drogba fronting got his head onto the ball and it fell to Terry to get Chelsea's second goal and just like that it was 3-3 on aggregate.
Napoli finally had something to exult as Inler's goal proved a beauty, chest trapping a cleared ball and as it fell to ground, thumping it on the half volley. The ball sizzled past Petr Cech lodging in the net. Napoli 4-3. But then tragedy struck as Andrea Dossena hand balled Ivanovic's header and Lampard took the spot kick to send it to a 4-4 tie. The match went into extra time and it was Ivanovic who swept in Drogba's cross for the decisive goal following another defensive break down. A remarkable comeback for the old warriors.
The question is where were these players under Andre Villa -Boas? John Terry might go blue in the face denying their culpability in determining AVB's fate but these performances under De Matteo look suspiciously like they were holding back. Either that or De Matteo is an effing genius who West Brom should have held onto and never let go. By the way, the change at the top has done little to change Fernando Torres's goalscoring problems. Whatever the case might be the Stamford Bridge crowd will take this victory. No questions asked. It's Chelsea flying the English league's flag in the Champions League. Who will they get? APOEL or Marseille will be their preferred opponent.