Showing the same kind of defensive frailties that condemned Arsenal to a 4-0 loss at AC Milan,Chelsea failed to protect an early lead and lost 3-1 at Napoli in the first leg of their round of 16 matchup.
In Tuesday’s other match,CSKA Moscow scored a last-gasp equaliser to draw 1-1 at home against Real Madrid.
While Chelsea still has a realistic chance of turning things around in the return leg at Stamford Bridge,the loss heaped further pressure on manager Andre Villas-Boas,whose self-proclaimed support from owner Roman Abramovich could quickly evaporate if he fails to deliver in the competition the Russian billionaire is most eager to win.
The visitors still looked set to produce a result when Juan Mata gave them an early lead,but Ezequiel Lavezzi exploited defensive mishaps to score twice and Edinson Cavani added another goal to put Napoli in control.
Napoli leveled 11 minutes later when Lavezzi collected the ball on the edge of the area and eluded Chelsea midfielder Raul Meireles before curling it into the bottom right corner. Cavani,whose goals helped eliminate Manchester City in the group stage,scored his fifth goal in seven appearances this season right on halftime when he turned Gokhan Inler’s cross into the net from close range.
After Chelsea defender David Luiz gave the ball away sloppily,Cavani turned provider,squaring it past an outrushing Cech for Lavezzi to slot into an empty net in the 65th.
Wernbloom to the rescue
Ronaldo’s 28th-minute goal had appeared to put the visitors on course for victory in a match played in subzero temperatures. But CSKA midfielder Pontus Wernbloom scrambled the ball into the net with the last kick of the match in the third minute of stoppage time to equalise for the Russian club.