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Bench Warfare - Napoli 3 Chelsea 1   
 
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22-Feb-2012  
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SELECTION HEADACHE ... AVB wielded the axe but saw Lavezzi wreak havoc
 
 
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CHELSEA players were in revolt against boss Andre Villas-Boas last night — BEFORE this Naples defeat.

Ashley Cole, Frank Lampard and Michael Essien were dumped to the bench for daring to criticise AVB, even though he invited them to do so.

Villas-Boas held a clear-the-air meeting on Sunday where he asked them for honest opinions on their poor results. Lampard and Essien were forthright in their views — but it was Cole who spoke out most strongly.

The England left-back told AVB, 'I came here to win medals and trophies, but I'm never going to do that with your tactics'.

Cole is also unhappy as he feels 'like a robot' with Villas-Boas telling him exactly how to play, rather than giving him freedom.

Chelsea's players were infuriated when their three team-mates were put on the bench for speaking out ahead of the Champions League last 16 clash.

The boss even told Cole 'you made it personal'.

England star Cole was further angered when he saw his manager on TV claiming that he had been left out over concerns that he was not fully fit.

Cole underwent gruelling extra fitness training and insisted he was 100 per cent ready to play.

And he made a mockery of AVB's claims when he was called into action after 12 MINUTES following an injury to Jose Bosigwa.

Villas-Boas was in no mood to discuss his team selection last night and insisted he would be in charge for the second leg. He said: "I have full confidence from the owner. Manager for the second leg? Yes, for sure.

"It's a team selection, I can go on and explain but it makes no difference. "It was based on what was fair at that moment, the best team." When details of Chelsea's team sheet were revealed last night there was widespread disbelief.

Sky Sports pundit Jamie Redknapp said: "It has all the makings of managerial suicide." Graeme Souness added: "If Cole is 90 per cent, he's still better than Bosingwa at 100 per cent."

AVB added: "The first 90 minutes have passed but we have another 90.
"We have the knowledge we can create problems. We created problems and can turn the tie around."

******

Napoli 3 Chelsea 1

VESUVIUS, which overlooks Naples, seems an easier mountain to climb than the one facing Chelsea now.

Yes, the Blues have an away goal, and a 2-0 victory at Stamford Bridge in the second leg on March 14 would put them through to the Champions League quarter-finals.

But Napoli are in command and, such is their attacking prowess, they are perfectly capable of scoring in London. And with key members of the Chelsea squad in such open revolt against boss Andre Villas-Boas, it is difficult to see them summoning up the team spirit required to turn this tie around.

Villas-Boas gambled by leaving out experienced campaigners Frank Lampard, Ashley Cole and Michael Essien for daring to criticise his tactics.

But they are big-game players he could not afford to be without — and his desire to teach them a lesson backfired. Frankly, his team selection looked like a death wish.

While the young boss claims to have the total support of owner Roman Abramovich, who backs his three-year project, the look on the face of chairman Bruce Buck at the final whistle suggested others in the hierarchy do not have the same faith.

Chelsea are imploding before our very eyes. Villas-Boas is causing mayhem and many of the players are not with him. When the going gets tough, they are not prepared to go the extra mile for the manager.

In all their four away games in Europe this season, Chelsea have gone ahead and failed to win.

Some of their defending in the lively Stadio San Paolo last night was plain comical.

New-boy Gary Cahill had a nightmare and his partnership with the erratic David Luiz is not a match made in heaven.

But because skipper John Terry needs a knee op which could keep him out for two months, we may not have seen the last of this dodgy double act.

For all the problems behind the scenes, Chelsea had the advantage on 27 minutes thanks to Juan Mata.

Cole was already on for Jose Bosingwa — who had pulled a hamstring playing in an unfamiliar left-back role — and appeared perfectly fit for battle as he pushed his team forward.

One of the surviving veterans — and captain for the night — Didier Drogba fed Daniel Sturridge.

When the ball came in, Paolo Cannavaro sliced his attempted clearance, which dropped to Mata, who coolly converted

Mata was involved in all that was good about Chelsea and, from his corner, Luiz headed narrowly over the bar.

But Ezequiel Lavezzi was just as influential for the home side and he linked up with Edinson Cavani to devastating effect.

When Argentinian Lavezzi latched on to Cavani's lay-off, he curled a glorious 20-yarder into the bottom corner for the 38th-minute equaliser which got 60,000 fans jumping.

Ramires should have restored Chelsea's lead immediately after working his way free into the area, only to blaze horribly over the top.

A booking for Raul Meireles for handball followed, meaning he was out of the second leg.

Then, in first-half stoppage time, Napoli went in front as Gokhan Inler's clip to the back post was bundled in by Cavani from close range with Branislav Ivanovic rooted to the spot.

There was a suspicion of handball about it because the ball appeared to hit Cavani on the shoulder but the goal stood.

It was a serious body blow to AVB's men.

The Italians should have had a third on 54 minutes. Lavezzi was released by Cavani but dragged his left-foot shot wide.

However, more awful defending proved costly on 65 minutes as Luiz lost out to Cavani, who squared for Lavezzi to finish.

AVB threw on reinforcements Lampard and Essien. But it took a great clearance by Cole to stop Maggio scoring No 4 for Napoli.

Drogba had a chance to make it 3-2 from Cole's cross and Lampard forced Morgan De Sanctis into a save. Had either scored, it would have given Chelsea a proper chance of progress — but it would have covered up a lot of cracks, too.

DREAM TEAM RATINGS

STAR MAN - EZEQUIEL LAVEZZI

CHELSEA: Cech 6, Ivanovic 5, Bosingwa 5 (Cole 6), Cahill 5, Luiz 5, Ramires 6, Meireles 6 (Essien 5), Malouda 6 (Lampard 6), Sturridge 6, Drogba 6, Mata 7. Subs not used: Turnbull, Torres, Mikel, Kalou. Booked: Meireles, Cahill.

NAPOLI: De Sanctis 6, Campagnaro 6, Cannavaro 6, Aronica 6, Maggio 6, Inler 7, Gargano 7, Zuniga 7, Hamsik 6 (Pandev 82, 6), Lavezzi 8 (Dzemaili 74, 6), Cavani 8. Subs not used: Rosati, Grava, Dossena, Fernandez, Britos. Booked: Cavani.

REF: C Velasco Carballo 7.
 
 
Source: thesun.co.uk
 
 

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