Chelsea FC 2-0 Paris Saint-Germain
1970 PSG Man Of The Match: Andre Schurrle
The result last week was magnificent and the build-up to the second-leg last night has been exciting. But in the end Paris Saint-Germain were outdone by a spirited & resilient Chelsea team that had the know-how in this competition to overcome yet another seemingly impossible hurdle. A late goal from Demba Ba ensured a 2-0 win which sent them through to the Champions League semi-finals on away goals (3-3 agg).
It is a bitter pill to swallow for Les Parisiens. Having earned such an impressive result a week before, there was optimism I had not seen – it was on another level. We had a genuine opportunity to knock-out one of Europe’s most dominant clubs but in the end we fell short. To me, it just seemed like we were not ready to take that next step beyond the quarter-finals.
Laurent Blanc named an unchanged side from last week with the exception of Lucas Moura who came in for the injured Zlatan Ibrahimovic. There had been reports earlier on in the day that Javier Pastore was going to get the nod ahead of Lucas but Blanc opted for the latter.
The opening 30-minutes could not have gone any smoother for us. We were very comfortable. It surprised me just how much we were. I was expecting a Chelsea onslaught from the get-go but they bided their time. We kept possession for large spells but hardly created any meaningful chances. In truth, both Salvatore Sirigu and Petr Cech had very little to do in between the sticks. However, the tie took a massive swing away from us as substitute Andre Schurrle (who came on for an injured Eden Hazard) slotted home with aplomb just after the half-hour mark. It all stemmed from a throw-in that David Luiz nodded on and the German was there to gobble up. The lapse in concentration from the Parisien defence played a part as Alex completely lost sight of the 23-year-old behind him. After that, we had to weather a bit of a storm from the team in blue.
Our approach in the second-half was not great. Too defensive and we relied far too much on the counter-attack. But we did not even utilise that to our advantage. Ezequiel Lavezzi and Lucas ran their hearts out but they struggled to create any clear cut chances.
It was Chelsea who had the better openings. Schurrle was absolutely superb and he rattled Sirigu’s bar early on in the second-half. Oscar also hit the woodwork from a freekick after Lucas brought down Samuel Eto’o.
Marco Verratti did not have the best of games. He was a liability in truth by giving the ball away far too often. He dillydallied in possession which allowed the Chelsea players to squeeze him. He also picked up a yellow card for a silly foul in a dangerous area. In the end he was replaced by Yohan Cabaye which was a good call by Blanc (who perhaps should have started him).
In hindsight, Blanc made two other changes that may have been premature. Lavezzi and Lucas were brought off for Javier Pastore and Marquinhos. Maybe, the coach was too cautious, too early. Particularly when he brought Lavezzi off who was one of our brighter outlets. There was 20 minutes or so left to play as well.
However, the man up top Edinson Cavani had a golden opportunity to seal a place in the semi-final late on. Blaise Matuidi picked him out superbly with a ball over the top, the Uruguayan latched onto it but fluffed his lines and blazed over with his left foot. For him, it was a terrific chance which he should have at least got on target. It summed up his night really. He failed to make an impact which I thought he would in Ibra’s absence. How we could have done with the Swede’s aura!
In the end, Chelsea’s never say die attitude paid off as Ba scooped Cesar Azpilicueta’s wayward shot past Sirigu to the delirium of the Bridge and to the despair of those in white shirts.
Marquinhos was denied late on by Cech but the damage had been done. We had no time to get back into the tie.
You have to pay credit to Chelsea. The task seemed improbable for them but perhaps the expectancy on this PSG side was a little too great. I think we were too cautious and those momentary lapses of concentration were punished by a good side. It is a team with know-how in this competition along with a manager that has been there and done it. We just do not have that European pedigree and it showed. Saying that had Cavani but that golden chance away, the outcome could be so very different.
Regardless, let’s not get too down about it. Europe was always a bonus. Yes, it is disappointment but the club are on course to retain the league for the first time in the club’s history. There is a cup final next week. And that defeat last night was our first since January 22nd which indicates just how incredible this team has done this season. The progress has been unbelievable. Blanc has been the shrewdest of appointments. And the football has been superb!
Last night was a lesson for where the club wants to be and how to get there. Going beyond the ¼ finals was a little too steep for us in the end but we will come again next season.
Rome was not built in a day. The same applies to this club.