WEDNESDAY 2ND APRIL 2014 – LAST 8 FIRST LEG
PARIS SAINT-GERMAIN 3-1 CHELSEA
The Parc de Princes was rocked with an ear-shattering level of noise twice, as Paris Saint-Germain ran out victors in a tie which was closer than the scoreline might suggest.
The first blast came with just 4 minutes played. Zlatan Ibrahimovic robbed the ball early from David Luiz and set in motion PSG’s first attack. Blaise Matuidi lofted a ball into the Blues area, and John Terry attempted a headed clearance – unfortunately for the Chelsea man, the ball only got as far as 12 yards out, where a waiting Ezequiel Lavezzi chested the ball down and unleashed a contained half-volley into the roof of the net.
The flying start, and the roar of the crowd that greeted it, suggested Chelsea may be in for a long long night, however they gradually settled into the game. Controlling possession for the next few minutes, Chelsea probed but could not find a way through.
Jose Mourinho had erred on the side of caution with his team selection – picking Andre Shurrle to lead the line ahead of any recognised strikers. With Fernando Torres and Demba Ba both available, this could be seen as a statement again from the Chelsea manager on his perceived dearth of quality up front. However, the false 9 style is one he has used with effect in the past – Schurrle playing the role in a 0-0 draw at Old Trafford earlier this season in which Chelsea were very clearly set up, first and foremost, to not lose.
If that was the game plan for this evening, then Laurent Blanc’s men had blown it out of the water with that early goal. However Chelsea pushed again, and on 27 mins a rash and wholly unnecessary tackle by Thiago Silva on Oscar was punished and Eden Hazard stepped up to slot the resulting penalty into the goal with little fuss.
At 1-1, PSG looked a little more nervy, their momentum broken somewhat. They threatened again, with Zlatan attempting some trademark acrobatics, only to win a corner, and Lavezzi unleashing a close range effort directly at Petr Cech, however Chelsea kept up the pressure at the other end.
Hazard then came close to giving Chelsea the lead on 39’, connecting with a curling Willian cross from the right, and firing a volley back across goal. Sirigu could only watch the ball fizz by, but will have been relieved to see it bounce off his post and be cleared from danger.
Schurrle earned a talking to from Mourinho for drifting out of position, as the game headed towards a very definite stalemate at halftime. That came soon enough, but not before Edinson Cavani’s claims for a penalty – latching on to a downward header from Ibrahimovich, the forward felt he was pushed in the back by Gary Cahill. The referee was unmoved by the action and by the resulting complaints from the Uruguayan and the break came with the scores all square.
The second half became much as the first had ended, both teams feeling each other out when in possession and looking cagey when it came to attacking intent. Schurrle offered little against the pairing of Alex and Thiago Silva in the Paris backline, while Chelsea’s defence was generally untroubled until the 52nd minute.
Blaise Matuidi, again showing his versatility, popped up down the left and whipped in an excellent cross only for Lavezzi to put his header over the crossbar. The striker was certainly fired up, and showed good movement throughout, troubling the Chelsea back four right across the line, however he will feel he could have done better with this unmarked chance.
Finally, in the 61st minute, the deadlock was broken again – Matuidi again the instigator, drawing a foul from David Luiz by the corner flag. Lavezzi’s whipped dead-ball was lost in the mass of bodies shuffling for space in front of Cech’s goal, and it was the David LUiz who connected with it at the last moment – stumbling into the ball and looking on helplessly as it dribbled over the goal-line for an own goal.
Mourinho unleashed Torres to shake up his attacking options, freeing Schurrle from his torturous shift. Chelsea’s counter-attacking continued, and a good move from Eden Hazard led to a chance for the Belgian to shoot, however he decided to try to pick out Torres instead and the move broke down.
The much talked about Ibra was then the victim of his own counter-attack, as his quick intercepting of the ball on the halfway line led to him pulling up while attempting to join the attack. After brief treatment the Swede left the field of play, and headed down the tunnel moments later, to be replaced by Lucas Moura.
Christophe Jallet impressed throughout the game with his strength at the back, solid tackling, and endless support in the attack. He again almost picked out Cavani at the far post on 71’ as PSG looked to put the game beyond doubt.
Half chances were traded at both ends as the teams tired and the game opened up – Chelsea failing to capitalise on a quick counter and Cavani curling a shot wide of Cech’s post from range. Luiz and Cavani then clashed by the touchline, in front of their respective benches, drawing Laurent Blanc out of the technical area. Both men received a booking for their troubles.
With the clock ticking down it fell to substitute, and much-maligned, Javier Pastore to grace the game with a moment of quality that it had been lacking. An 80th minute substitute for the outstanding Lavezzi, the former Napoli man looked hungry for the ball, and showed some good footwork to push PSG forward.
The Chelsea defence seemed almost to go to sleep as the 4th minute of added time trickled away, and Pastore found himself chasing the ball down the right by-line. Inside the area, he kept the ball in play and was aware that the awaiting Azpilicueta and Frank Lampard could not risk any daring tackles in that position. Pastore then unleashed some fabulous footwork, switching the ball between his feet while gliding past the two Chelsea men, and firing in a low shot at Cech’s near post.
The veteran goalkeeper will be disappointed that he allowed the ball to slip in at such a tight angle, but the Paris faithful did not care. There was that noise again, and the player who had been booed of f the field in this very stadium earlier this season, was the centre of attention.
A 3-1 lead then to take to Stamford Bridge, although there will be plenty of talking point before that game. A booking for Ramires will hurt Chelsea as he now misses the 2nd leg, however the knocks to Ibrahimovic, and later Verratti, will be of great concern to the Parisians.
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