CHELSEA captain John Terry hailed the return of the ‘real Chelsea’ on what he described as one of the club’s greatest ever nights.
Having played an inspirational role in Chelsea’s 4-1 win over Napoli, scoring the team’s second goal, Terry said the result demonstrated the unity in the dressing room in the wake of the sacking of Andre Villas-Boas.
"This is one of the very best nights for us, and we showed what Chelsea are all about," Terry said. "We were solid and resilient and fought until the very end. We’ve proved we’re a team tonight. Players came in and we stuck together when it mattered."
Despite having experienced years of triumphs at Stamford Bridge during his career at Chelsea, Terry claimed that the 5-4 aggregate win after extra-time, overturning the 3-1 deficit from the first leg, "could top them all".
"That’s what we’re about," he said. “That desire, that togetherness and sticking together when it really mattered. We showed what Chelsea are really made of."
Terry refused to be drawn on whether the result vindicated the decision by owner Roman
Abramovich to dismiss Villas-Boas - "that’s the board’s decision," he said - but his choice of words was particularly telling given recent speculation that the final weeks of Villas-Boas’s reign were marked by unrest among senior players.
Having presented a united front on the pitch last night, they were keen to display one off it as well, with Abramovich and technical director Michael Emenalo visiting the dressing room after the game.
"He was happy because we won," said Roberto Di Matteo, the man temporarily in charge of the club, when asked what Abramovich had said in the dressing room. "Bbut apart from that it was private."
Frank Lampard, who took the tie into extra-time with a late penalty, said the result could turn Chelsea’s disappointing season around. "It was important we showed a desire and spirit to keep ourselves in the competition," he said.
"It’s been a difficult season but a performance like that tonight can change things for us so it’s important we go on from here. It’s an absolutely huge win for us."
Napoli manager Walter Mazzarri refused to blame referee Felix Brych for his side’s defeat.
"Uefa should do more to punish tactical fouls in the middle of the pitch," he said. "But in the end, we should have been more careful. Everything went wrong from the very start with [Christian] Maggio going off.
"We played better at times and showed more quality, but probably needed a bit more composure in front of goal."
PETR CECH: Saved early Marek Hamsik effort with legs and made another few decent stops. No chance with Inler's screamer. 7/10
BRANISLAV IVANOVIC: Posed constant attacking threat and popped up in the right place to score winner in extra time. 8
DAVID LUIZ: More assured defensive performance and a threat in opposition's box too. 7
JOHN TERRY: Steady at the back and scored a captain's goal early in the second half, forced off in injury time. 7
ASHLEY COLE: Quiet game for the England full-back and offered little in attack. 6
MICHAEL ESSIEN: Looked a little off the pace early on and never truly had a stranglehold on midfield battle. 6
FRANK LAMPARD: Pulled strings in midfield and his corner set up Chelsea's second before levelling from spot. 8
JUAN MATA: Lively early on but could not provide enough of a creative spark, replaced in extra time. 6
RAMIRES: Arguably out of position on the left but great cross for Didier Drogba's goal. 7
DANIEL STURRIDGE: Early effort saved but he drifted out of the game before being replaced by Fernando Torres. 6
DIDIER DROGBA: Worked hard with back to goal and took header very well to open scoring, as well as crossing for Ivanovic's winner. 8
FERNANDO TORRES: Brought on to add goalscoring threat but, despite looking lively, missed a golden chance in extra time. 6
FLORENT MALOUDA: Made no real difference after like-for-like change with Mata. 5
JOSE BOSINGWA: A few shaky moments after coming on for his captain. 5