Stamford Bridge witnessed another spectacular night as Chelsea managed to progress through to the semi-finals in dramatic style.
Demba Ba’s 87th minute toe-poke proved to be the winner, as the 3,000-strong PSG faithful were sent back home mulling over what might have been.
But it was another victory for determination and belief. Chelsea needed another Napoli evening. And whilst it was slow and often painful — PSG had their fair share of possession and opportunities — it was two substitutes in Schurrle and Ba who secured Chelsea’s passage to the semi-finals.
It looked as if the 3-1 deficit carried over from last week would be too much for Chelsea to overturn. The PSG players, it was rumoured, were to receive a huge financial bonus if they beat Chelsea tonight. But the French side looked like a bunch of individual talents than a cohesive team born for the big occasions.
Step by John Terry, Petr Cech and all the Chelsea players. It was a night which defied how far the human body could go in the pursuit of victory. Bodies were thrown, risks were taken, hearts were poured out. All in the name of a semi-final berth.
It was certainly a cautious opening. PSG, minus Ibrahimovic, posed no lesser a threat with Cavani and Lavezzi continuing to keep Cahill and Terry busy. In truth, Laurent Blanc could be immensely pleased with the opening half hour, stifling Chelsea’s hopes for a quick start.
PSG’s night got even better — or so they thought — when Hazard went off injured, but this only galvanised Chelsea, and, perhaps, freed up the players.
Half an hour had gone but still no Chelsea goal. Lampard’s free-kick nearly tricked Sirigu, but that was the closest the home side had come.
Then came the goal that gave the Blues belief. Ivanovic’s long throw-in drew Luiz in, and a host of PSG defenders. The Brazilian’s little flick behind then freed up Schurrle to side-foot home: 1-0, half-way there.
And then came the surge. The Blues hit the woodwork twice early on in the second half — one through Schurrle and one through Oscar — but the PSG goal was not to be penetrated.
Ivanovic had to be resolute against Cavani but the second half wore on and time was against Chelsea.
Then it became a match with no tactical structure. Mourinho, known for his astonishing tactical acumen, seemed to blow it all apart by having all of Chelsea’s forwards — Torres, Ba, Eto’o — on the pitch at once. It looked improvised, until the man said in his post-match interview they had been practising it.
And then it became a long ball game, typically seen before with Stoke. The ball-players had made way — Hazard, Oscar — and the direct approach was taken. Terry pumped the ball up front, Ba won a phenomenal amount of aerial duels and then it came down to a huge chunk of spirit.
Pinball in the box saw the ball fall out to Oscar, and his hopeful shot was tame. Ba was quickest to react and scooped it into the net. It was a rubbish finish but perhaps why the Senegalese man was brought on: his positioning is better than the other two Chelsea forwards and boy was he in the right place at the right time there.
Cue melt-down. Mourinho came charging out, more to bark orders than celebrate. It was not over yet. Corner after corner came PSG’s way. Sirigu was sent forward. Cech denied Marquinhos with a wonderful save. Ba and Torres were make-shift centre-backs.
No-one was to be denying Chelsea their night.
Man of the Match
EVERY CHELSEA PLAYER: It was a night which needed Man of the Match performances by everybody, and there is no separating them. Cech, who has come into criticism of late, was phenomenal at his near post and from their set-pieces. Cahill and Terry, as per, threw everything into the cause. Luiz, too, was well disciplined. Willian and Schurrle deserve a mention due to their fantastic work-rate, carrying the creative spark when Hazard left. And as for the forward line: Eto’o was a constant pest, Torres looked motivated as an emergency centre-back, but Demba Ba took his moment when it mattered. Everyone deserves a 10/10.
Mourinho was delighted with his players: “We gave everything. My four defenders were brilliant. The midfield were animals. Luiz was a monster. Our forwards were brave. You always believe. It is part of our nature.”
Laurent Blanc cut a dejected figure: “Chelsea were much better in the second half and they were rewarded. Good luck to them.”