Paris Saint-Germain 3-1 Chelsea FC
1970 PSG Man Of The Match: Ezequiel Lavezzi
Goosebumps! Javier Pastore who had only been on the pitch nine minutes, picks up the ball on the edge of the byline, fools Cesar Azpilicueta, ghosts past Frank Lampard, before slotting the ball past Petr Cech at his near post to seal an infamous 3-1 victory. What followed that was sheer delirium. Pastore running away with delight and chased by his teammates is an image that I cannot get out of my mind. It summed everything up for me. The unity of the squad, the belief, everything in that moment was oh so sweet. The fans almost shattered the Parc des Princes on its very foundations with the atmosphere they generated. It was a beautiful night, one that will go down as one of the greatest in the club’s recent history. Paris Saint-Germain 3-1 Chelsea on the night, but this tie is far from over.
As expected, Laurent Blanc named the side we all thought he would; Sirigu, Jallet, Silva, Alex, Maxwell, Matuid, Motta, Verratti, Lavezzi, Cavani and Ibrahimovic. As for Chelsea, Jose Mourinho sprung a couple of surprises. David Luiz came into central midfield to partner Ramires ahead of Frank Lampard but the biggest surprise was that Andre Schurrle was put in ahead of Fernando Torres. Essentially The Blues played without a recognised striker.
In the early going we started ever so bright. Within 20 seconds Marco Verratti had a rare effort on goal – that went well wide – but it set the tone for us. Ezequiel Lavezzi within four minutes opened the scoring with an absolute peach. Blues skipper John Terry was unable to get enough distance on his clearing header which landed to the Argentine who controlled exquisitely before hammering the ball home off the crossbar. It was a beautiful strike.
After that, we opted to sit back and invite pressure on to us. Chelsea responded well they began to keep the ball but were not really penetrating our final third as such. But, our captain Thiago Silva brought down Oscar in the area and a penalty was awarded. It all stemmed from Zlatan Ibrahimovic losing the ball on the half-way line. Willian galloped down the right, the ball came to Oscar in the box and he had the beating of the world’s best centre-back. It is such a rarity for Silva to get sucked in as he did but credit to his compatriot for getting there first. Eden Hazard stepped up as cool as a cucumber to equalise and give the visitors an all-important away goal.
After that, it was all Chelsea. The goal drained the life out of us, we were making mistakes in midfield, and there was no rhythm to our play. We just relied on the counter-attack. It looked bleak for a while, especially when Hazard hit the foot of the post with a stunning volley.
David Luiz was Chelsea’s best player. He was bossing the midfield. Anytime we had possession within his vicinity he and his colleagues squeezed us, forcing errors. We expected this and from a Chelsea point of view it worked an absolute treat. We were thankful when the half-time whistle came.
After the interval, both sides were not really creating anything. There was a spark lacking from both. But we were handed a huge slice of luck when in the 61st minute, Luiz gifted us an own goal. That came from his foul on Blaise Matuidi which resulted in Lavezzi sweeping in a delicious freekick that beat everyone in the box but not Luiz’s shins. The Brazilian could not move out of the way as the ball bundled into the back of the net.
That goal changed everything. Chelsea were comfortable at 1-1 but as their equaliser did to us, it did to them with ours. They had no answers going forward. Hazard went close and Torres was brought on but he made no impact at all.
There is some bad news for us however is that the big man, Ibra, injured his hamstring. His body language was worrying as he pulled up grasping the back of his leg in the 68th minute. He was immediately replaced by Lucas Moura who went out to the right and Cavani came into the middle of the front three. After the game, Laurent Blanc and President Nasser Al-Khelaifi confirmed that the Swede will be out of a few weeks at least. He is out of the second-leg and his participation in the cup final is in serious doubt as well. It is a cruel blow.
Cavani who was now in his favoured role through the middle went agonisingly close late on with a stunning effort just outside the box. The ball just whizzed wide.
With the game in stoppage time and looking as if it was going to end 2-1, Pastore took centre stage and produced the best moment of his PSG career. Will he ever top it? I seriously doubt it. He has written his name in history with a goal that was breath-taking and rubberstamped one of the club’s most famous nights in Europe.
Jose Mourinho headed straight down the tunnel after an embrace with Blanc. It is a significant goal, there is no doubt about. A 2-1 defeat for Chelsea was not such as bad result, but that late strike has tipped the balance in our favour most definitely.
But, this tie is far from over! We cannot think for a second it is. Chelsea, at Stamford Bridge, is one of the biggest tests in European football. They have turned defecits like this around before and they are capable of doing it again. Just ask Lavezzi and Cavani who experienced this with Napoli two years. There is still so much football left to play.
Anyway, we will worry about that next week. For now, everyone affiliated with the club must revel in a result like that because it does not happen too often. The scenes at the end were of pure jubilation.
Man of the match? Without question it was Lavezzi. He ran the show for large parts of the game, scored a goal, forced another. His form in the last six weeks has to be applauded. He is back in the goals, rejuvenated and was PSG’s most influential player last night. It was his best performance to date in a Parisien shirt by a country mile.