The players he selected for his first Champions League game in charge of a side had done the Italian proud. Having got their noses in front, they even survived conceding the away goal many predicted would be scored by the enterprising Serie A side, going on to win on aggregate in extra-time.
It had been a draining night, balancing on a knife-edge in the closing minutes when a single Napoli goal would have totally reversed the outcome, but Chelsea kept their nerve to go into the last-eight draw on Friday.
‘For the club it meant a lot to be still able to play in the Champions League,’ said Di Matteo after the game.
‘And you could see how much it meant to the players. Everybody was delighted that we put in such a big performance.
‘I have had some great nights [in football] but it will probably go down in the club’s history, coming back from a two-goal deficit from the first leg. You saw from the players and how they performed that they showed the passion and that they care about the club and the supporters. It will give us a big boost for the rest of the season as well.’
‘Everything went wrong from the start for us,’ lamented Napoli coach Walter Mazzarri. ‘We saw one of our key players [Christian] Maggio get injured and we had to replace him and we probably paid for the in experience of some of our players, both in attack and in defence. It is a lesson for the future.’
It is now three wins from three games for the Chelsea interim first team coach who was delighted his players are sacrificing individual concerns for the benefit of the team.
‘We just tried to get back to basics, tried to be solid and not concede goals, and we were always confident that with the quality we had within the team that we could score,’ Di Matteo said.
‘The home advantage was important. Napoli are probably stronger at home and they are very dangerous with the transition, but our supporters helped us to win the game and every win will increase the confidence of the team.’