Chelsea defend in vain as PSG gain 2-1 upper hand in crunch tie
Chelsea’s defensive resoluteness was undone by two sloppy goals as the Blues lose 2-1 against nemesis Paris Saint-Germain in France.
The two sides, who have met twice in recent years with both ties ending 3-3 on aggregate and having to be settled on away goals, played out a thoroughly entertaining and open game of football, but it was a case of the hosts being more efficient.
Ibrahimovic broke the deadlock from a free-kick when the Chelsea wall parted, but Mikel atoned in first-half injury time. Chelsea, and in particular Costa, was guilty of missing big one-on-one opportunities but Cavani gave PSG back their deserved lead as Courtois was sloppy in closing down.
It leaves the tie slightly in favour of the Parisian side going into the return leg in three week’s time, but Hiddink can be pleased with his men’s performance, particularly given a make-shift defence with no Zouma or Terry.
It was exactly the start Chelsea fans feared. Lucas ran through the heart of the make-shift defence after just 37 seconds but Cahill stuck a leg out. Veratti then had a swerving shot moments later, whilst Moura’s drive whistled past Courtois’ post after being teed up by Ibrahimovic.
It was ominous opening signs for Chelsea, with PSG players omnipresent and Chelsea defending deep from the first minute, with Lucas allowed another run in acres of space in the 17th minute. Azpilicueta tracked well, but Chelsea had already had too many warnings.
But after the opening 20 minutes, Chelsea started to hold their own. Out of the blue, Chelsea’s first meaningful chance should have been taken. Rahman’s cross was a peach and planted exactly on Costa’s forehead, but he headed straight at Trapp. It was a point-blank chance and Chelsea certainly did not deserve to take the lead, but it was an opportunity they needed to take.
Then, Pedro found space for a cross and Azpilicueta was the wrong man in the right place, totally mis-kicking Pedro’s cross.
But it was not all Chelsea. Ibrahimovic had his own chance akin to Costa’s moments earlier, but headed straight down with Cahill doing just enough to put the tall Swede off.
The PSG talisman was not to be denied though. On the 39th minute, Mikel conceded a free-kick and was the guilty party in a flaky wall to take Ibrahimovic’s free-kick past Courtois. It was deserved and sent the home crowd into delirium.
But the Nigerian would soon make amends. PSG have only let in one goal in this season’s Champions League, but Chelsea worked up a corner after excellent work by Rahman and Fabregas, and Willian’s floating ball in was flicked on by Costa into the midriff of Mikel. All the Chelsea stalwart had to do was put his foot through it and he sure did, grabbing his sixth Chelsea goal in 358 club appearances. It was the last kick of the half.
How would the second half pan out? With the away goal obtained, Chelsea’s strategy was one of counter-attacks, and it sure gave PSG plenty of the ball.
Aside from a Costa chance straight after the restart where Trapp denied him one-on-one, it was all PSG in a very open affair.
Lucas was through but Courtois got down well, whilst Cahill and Ivanovic had to be at the top of their game to arrest the onslaught from Messrs Ibrahimovic, Moura and Veratti.
Courtois had to be alert from a Di Maria free-kick, but Chelsea looked to seize the initiative by bringing on Oscar for the ineffective Hazard, and the Brazilian was an inch away from getting a toe onto a fantastic long-range Fabregas free-kick.
But PSG had a trick up their sleeve with Cavani for Moura too, and the Uruguayan scored. Cahill played the man living in the shadows of Ibrahimovic on-side and, with such a tight angle, the only way he could have scored was through Courtois’ legs. The Belgian invited it and PSG regained the upper hand yet again.
Marquinhos should have made it 3-1 as he was free to run in on Courtois but his tame shot was blocked by Cahill, as the rattles were coming off for Chelsea, as Silva lashed wide with another opportunity.
Costa was wasteful and dispossessed of the ball when he should have just unleashed it, with PSG breaking straight away as Ibrahimovic had a glorious chance to grab a third in injury time, whilst Pedro hit the side netting as Chelsea looked in vain for one final chance.
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Man of the Match
BABA RAHMAN: His biggest test to date being thrust into a make-shift Chelsea defence and thought he handled the pressure in Paris quite well relatively. The goals were not directly his fault and he was resolute with his defensive work, but displays an attacking threat down the left which Azpilicueta cannot offer which is a left-footed cross whipped in, and had Costa taken that opportunity it could have played out into a very different game. 7/10
Hiddink was pragmatic but honest: “Over two legs, it is important you have the away goal. If we can do it at Stamford Bridge then a defeat doesn’t count so much. The result is negative but on the other hand an away goal is important. It hurt a bit because the team was playing decently. We were not lethal enough at times but otherwise we can be relatively happy. But we are still in the race.”