The talk has been of a crumbling empire at Stamford Bridge this season but the Chelsea old guard showed they are not ready to be consigned to the scrapheap after a thrilling win over Napoli in the Champions League on Wednesday.
Skipper John Terry,striker Didier Drogba and midfielder Frank Lampard,who between them have amassed 235 appearances in the competition,all scored as Chelsea overcame a 3-1 first leg deficit to win 4-1 on the night and 5-4 on aggregate. Branislav Ivanovic belted home in extra time to break Napolis resistance but it was the three pillars of their title-winning dynasties who were the driving force as Chelsea stayed on course for the trophy owner Roman Abramovich craves.
Andre Villas-Boas had been hired to build a bright new future at Chelsea but the 3-1 defeat in Naples in February,in which he left Lampard and Michael Essien on the bench,hastened his departure after just eight months in the hot seat. Under caretaker coach Roberto Di Matteo,Chelsea have won all three matches and the spirit the squad seemed to be lacking under the callow Villas-Boas has returned.
We are still putting our bodies on the line, Lampard,whose penalty 15 minutes from the end of normal time took the tie to extra time,told reporters. We still have the ability in the team to go a long way. You still need the old boys and the experience in the team as well as the young ones coming through. As far as Champions League nights go,this one goes right up to the top, added the England midfielder.
Madrid canter through
In Madrid,Real Madrid cantered into the quarter-finals of the Champions League when thoroughbred forward Cristiano Ronaldo netted twice in a 4-1 win at home to CSKA Moscow on Wednesday that put the La Liga leaders through 5-2 on aggregate.
Gonzalo Higuain and substitute Karim Benzema also found the net as Jose Mourinhos side secured their place in Fridays draw for the last eight.