AS FAR AS dishing out blame for the three Napoli goals in the first leg of the Champions League, I don’t think there are any major disputes. Most agree that Meireles was mainly responsible for the first, Ivanovic for the second and Luiz for the third. So a detailed analysis of the way Chelsea conceded these three goals for a purely investigative reason seems redundant. However, this blog not merely an autopsy table: it is also, as the name suggests, a chronicle of events concerning Chelsea football club. So, if you learn anything new from reading this post, great! If not, consider it as a historical piece that I might reference in the future.
Enough talk. Let’s look at how Lavezzi and Cavani managed to do substantial damage to Chelsea’s chance of advancing to the next round of the Champions League.
The First Lavezzi Goal
|Picture 1.1 Cavani Receives Pass on Left Flank|
AS THEY DID time and time again in this game, Napoli started this move by launching a long ball forward from defense. Hamsik received this long pass on their right flank. However, the initial attack ended with Cahill making a headed clearance.
Inler got to the loose ball first and sent it forward to Cavani on the left side of Napoli's attack. At this point, Chelsea's defensive shape was solid -- four defenders back with two central midfielders right in front. Sturridge tracked the run of Napoli's left wing-back Zuniga while Cole watched Maggio on the other flank. Centrally, Hamsik was marked by Cahill and Luiz. Lavezzi was initially marked by Ramires but the Brazillian moved over to his right to help out Ivanovic leaving the goal scorer with Meireles. All in all, it was a 5 v 7 situation which Chelsea should have dealt with relative ease.
|Picture 1.2 Cavani Passes to Lavezzi|
Cavani took on Ivanovic and cut inside, which was not ideal (as a fullback you always want to push opposition out wide as much as you can) but not terrible either. Cavani made the pass to Lavezzi and Meireles stepped up to mark the Argentine. In a perfect world, Ramires would have somehow intercepted the pass -- after all, he moved to that position in the first place to deal with this kind of scenario. But again, it's not the end of the world. Lavezzi had no where to go, right?
|Picture 1.3 Lavezzi Scores|
As Lavezzi took his first touch, Cavani made a dash into the box as if to receive a through ball from his teammate. Cavani's movement combined with Lavezzi's slight body feint led Meireles to anticipate the through ball and shift to his right. Anticipation is good as long as you get it right. I think Meireles is rightly blamed for this goal but it is only fair to note that the goal itself was of high quality: we all know it takes a lot to beat Cech from outside the box.
If you are looking for a bright spot in this gloomy picture, look no further than Sturridge's tracking. The youngster does not have a great record in fulfilling his defensive duties but he did his share in this case and stayed in front of Zuniga at all time.
The Cavani Goal
|Picture 2.1 Napoli Build-up from the Right|
THIS TIME NAPOLI defender Campagnaro carried the ball forward from on their right flank. He then laid the ball back to Hamsik who sent it back to Inler. Meireles, who was initially in the box, ran up to close down on Inler but it was too late. Meanwhile, Cavani waited patienly on the edge of the box.
|Picture 2.2 Inler Passes into the Box|
With a little bit of time and space available, Inler was able to send a long ball into the box, in behind the Chelsea defense. Sturridge, again, closed down Zuniga, leaving Ivanovic to deal with Cavani who smelt blood. The Uruguayan beat the Chelsea right back and shouldered the ball into the net. Ivanovic, as most would agree, was the main culprit in this goal. The overall build-up of this goal is similar to the first: the initial thrust hit Chelsea's left and then transitioned to the right. We will find this same pattern in their third goal too.
The Second Lavezzi Goal
|Picture 3.1 Campagnaro's Long Ball Forward|
AT THIS POINT in the game, Napoli were playing on the counter as Chelsea pushed on to find the second equalizer. To be honest, I don't understand why Chelsea were in so much of a hurry to get that second goal: 2-1 in an away European game is a good result. In retrospect, the Blues should have been more cautious in their attack: committing so many bodies forward only played into the home side's counter-attacking game.
Anyway, back to the goal at hand. This move started with yet another long ball from the back aimed at Chelsea's left side (just as in the previous two goals). This time, Cavani was out wide on the left and sneaked in behind Cole. I think Cole could have done better but the real damage was done by Luiz who tried to be too cute when he got to the ball before Cavani -- instead of clearing the ball like a traditional center back, the Brazilian attempted to lift the ball over Cavani. He took an unnecessary risk and his team had to pay for it.
We should also note Ivanovic's position as the ball was played forward. Ultimately, Lavezzi will get ahead of Ivanovic to score the goal but he was pretty far behind Ivanovic at this point. I think Ivanovic's initial positioning was correct but he got beaten by speed.
|Picture 3.2 Lavezzi Scores|
Some say that Cech shouldn't have come too far out of his goal but if he didn't, Cavani would just head straight towards the goal to have a one-on-one with Cech and probably score. But now, Cavani had to cut back and wait for Lavezzi to get there. Lavezzi didn't take long to get there and finish it off.
CHELSEA'S DISASTROUS DEFENDING played a huge role in all three goals but I can't help but appreciate Cavani's excellent movement, on and off the ball, which helped create all these goal-scoring opportunities. As a Chelsea fan, I can only hope this performance by Cavani would convince the power that be at Chelsea that they could really use this player in Chelsea's attack. Just dropping a not-so-subtle hint.
Carefree, wherever you may be...