Terry's old guard show they are not quite ready to leave stage just yet


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The Independent Online

It seems a season does not go by without the Chelsea senior players denying they have too much power, but last night the veterans had to answer a more worrying claim that they have all lost their mojo on the pitch.

Since Chelsea were humbled 3-1 in the first leg of their last-16 Champions League tie against Napoli, Andre Villas-Boas had seemingly paid the price for the club's elder statesmen still ruling the roost as he became the sixth manager to be sacked by owner Roman Abramovich.

Some would say the real reason for Chelsea's troubles this season has been more related to the players simply no longer being the force they once were.

With Chelsea planning to make mass changes in the summer some, if not all the stalwarts of Petr Cech, Ashley Cole, Frank Lampard, Michael Essien and John Terry were last night playing to show they should still be a part of the club's future as much as keeping it in the competition.

Chelsea's pensioners seemed determined not to leave the stage just yet. Didier Drogba was leading from the front, battling Napoli's back four on his own in a manner which belied his 34 years.

Out of contract in the summer he may be, but he was certainly not out of touch as he powered a firm header into the net on 28 minutes to give the home fans hope. With Lampard and Essien starting to take control of midfield and Cech, who had made some fine saves in the opening quarter of an hour to keep the tie alive, belief that one last miracle could be achieved was alive again.

Now it was Terry's turn to convert words into positive action. He climbed highest just after the break to plant the ball in the far corner and give the home side a 2-0 scoreline. But the next telling contact with his forehead set up Gokhan Inler to fire a crucial away goal for Napoli.

The script was just missing a more telling contribution from Lampard and he was the epitome of calmness to level the tie on aggregate from the penalty spot and bring on extra time.