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Chelsea Start A New Chapter, But Is It An Ominous One Already?

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Chelsea became only the fourth team in the Champions League era to overturn a first leg two-goal deficit to qualify for the next round.

Their 4-1 defeat of Napoli in the round-of-16, over the course of 120 minutes, keeps the club's hopes alive of yielding their first ever European Cup. And for interim coach Roberto Di Matteo, it was another auspicious audition in front of the watching Roman Abramovich. It's three wins from three from the ex-Blues midfielder.

But it was Chelsea's much-criticised old guard who provided three of the four goals. Didier Drogba, excellent with the exception of an unashamed act of cheating, John Terry and Frank Lampard scored to take the tie into extra-time. Then Branislav Ivanovic slammed home the winner in the 105th minute to eliminate the crestfallen Neapolitans.

Despite the first leg 3-1 defeat, there was much cause for optimism for the Blues. That madcap mayhem in Naples was quelled despite Edinson Cavani going close in the first half and instead of the dilapidated Stadio San Paolo pitch, home comforts were to be had with Stamford Bridge resembling a bowling green.

Defensively, Napoli were as forlorn as the class victim up against school bully Drogba. Alpha male extraordinaire and revelling in the physical duels, his opponents were stumped for ideas to neutralise his effect on play. Abramovich is long past rational decision-making, but he should move heaven and earth to retain the Ivorian, out of contract this summer.

Scoring wasn't the issue for Chelsea, whereas conceding was. But their resilience startled their visitors. Gokhan Inler's sweet strike to make it 2-1 on the evening but 4-3 on aggregate to Napoli prompted a period of uncertainty, but Chelsea rode it out relatively calmly. David Luiz had perhaps his best game since his transfer from Benfica last year and Petr Cech resembled the colossal 'keeper he was back in 2006.

There has been a marked improvement in spirit since Andre Villas-Boas left, which is unsurprising as it is damning of players' aptitude. It is often the case with football clubs, reinvigorated by a new personality, but everyone knew Chelsea had the quality to perform better than they were. For whatever reason(s) however they didn't subscribe to the Portuguese's football philosophy.

So can this excellent effort commence the latest chapter in the club's fruitful yet fractious era under Abramovich? Lurking in wait in the final eight could be Barcelona, a superior side and two-times conquerors of Chelsea in the last six years, however they have toiled in west London too.

Just like in 2009, a managerial change has galvanised Chelsea (under Guus Hiddink they should have reached the Champions League final for a second successive year). The task is unenviably tougher now with Jose Mourinho's Real Madrid to consider too, but a confidence-boosting spell in the competition may act as a springboard for success next season. They still have the FA Cup to regain as well.

But ominously, Di Matteo is already being undermined. By Terry, naturally. Withdrawn seemingly as a precaution in extra-time (some joked it was to ensure he wouldn't take a penalty), he proceeded to bark out orders from behind his Italian manager on the touchline. Di Matteo was as twitchy as Andre Villas-Boas, but much less audible.

When the two-time FA Cup final goalscorer burst onto the pitch at full-time it evoked memories of Jose Mourinho celebrating after Chelsea defeated Barcelona at the same stage in 2005. But as harmony seeps back into the Chelsea dressing room, it is hard to imagine that Di Matteo will be afforded the main role.