It seemed inevitable as Edinson Cavani entered the fray in the 74th minute that he would have a say in which way the pendulum would swing in this Champions league tie. It took the Uruguayan striker 4 minutes to leave his stamp on this tie, firing low under the advancing Thibaut Courtois to vitally edge PSG in front. However, many around the footballing world, including Chelsea fans, expected the result to be far more convincing for the Parisiens. The defensive solidarity and bravery provided by stand in Captain Branislav Ivanovic and Centre-Back partner Gary Cahill, coupled with the attacking incision and intent of Pedro, Willian and Diego Costa allowed Chelsea to gain an all important away goal and keep them in with a shout of progressing into the Champions League Quarter Finals.
With first choice centre backs John Terry and Kurt Zouma both missing from the starting eleven, Guus Hiddink entrusted a make shift back four of Azpilicueta, Cahill, Ivanovic and Baba Rahman to start together for the first time and they were immediately put under pressure. PSG began on the front foot in the first 15 minutes, testing Courtois as Marco Verrati hit a fierce drive from distance. The pace and endeavour with which the French club moved the ball around was obviously causing the Blues some discomfort. However a calming influence was needed for Chelsea to gain some foothold in this match and this was provided in the man they have so often relied upon this season, Willian, and a man that has barely figured in the first team this season, Baba Rahman. As Fabregas and Mikel managed to get a foothold in the game from deep lying positions and play progressive passes into the final third, Chelsea reaped the benefits. Kevin Trapp denied Diego Costa with a stunning save from point blank range after an inch perfect cross from Baba. However it was to be PSG that would strike the first blow as Mikel firstly gave away a foul on Lucas Moura on the edge of the box, and to compile his misery, Ibrahimovic’s low free kick flicked off his shin after some shameful defending within the wall on his part. Many thought PSG would go on to grab the bull by the horns at the Parc des Princes, but it was to be Chelsea who replied swiftly. A Willian corner was flicked on by Diego Costa at the near post towards John Obi Mikel, who looked unnerved in an unfamiliar position to smash home only his second Champions League goal ever and atone for his initial error only 5 minutes before.
Chelsea continued in the second half from where they left off at the end of the first, retaining their defensive solidarity whilst looking to use the intricate play of Willian and Fabregas, as well as the pace of Pedro and Costa on the counter. One man who disappointed on the evening in Paris was Eden Hazard, who, if he was auditioning for a place in the star studded PSG cast, would not of received a call back. However it was Hazard’s team that almost took the lead with Willian playing in Diego Costa, who’s subtle effort was saved once again by Kevin Trapp. The continued Chelsea possession seemed to anger PSG who swiftly clicked into gear come the hour mark. Matuidi and Motta began to press higher, and Di Maria and Lucas began to see more of the ball. Veratti was once again denied by Courtois, and Matuidi thought he had scored, only for Ivanovic to put his body on the line and prevent the ball from hitting the back of the net. Chelsea should’ve taken the lead through Oscar, who replaced Hazard, however it was to be PSG who would edge ahead in the fixture. After coming on as a sub, Cavani replicated his feat of almost a year ago to put the ball beyond Courtois with 12 minutes remaining and send the PSG fans into raptures. If anyone looked likely to score next it would be PSG, but Courtois was once again the savior as he prevented an Ibrahimovic second, ensuring the game finished with a 2-1 scoreline.
“Of course a defeat is never a good or a nice feeling but you have to consider it’s a two-legged game.” He added, “Scoring away is always good and we emphasise that. We had good, tactical defensive organisation. On top of that we were dangerous but we were not lethal with the four or five counters we had. It’s not a dramatic loss. Losing 2-1, we are still in the race.”
Total Shots – 20-10
Shots on target – 8-5
Shots off target – 8-1
Blocked – 4-4
Possession – 65% – 35%
PSG: Trapp, Marquinhos, Silva, Luiz, Maxwell, Motta, Verrati (Pastore, 81), Matuidi (Rabiot, 81), Lucas Moura (Cavani, 74), Ibrahimovic, Di Maria
Unused Subs: Sirigu, van der Wiel, Kurzawa, Stambouli
Chelsea: Courtois, Azpilicueta, Ivanovic, Cahill, Baba Rahman, Mikel, Fabregas, Hazard (Oscar, 71), Willian, Pedro, Costa
Unused Subs: Begovic, Miazga, Loftus-Cheek, Traore, Kenedy, Remy