UEFA Champions League: PSG 2-1 Chelsea - Match Report
PSG were deserved 2-1 winners on the night in the first leg of their UEFA Champions League Round-of-16 tie against Chelsea at the Parc des Princes. Zlatan Ibrahimovic gave the hosts the lead in the 39th minute from a free kick that deflected off Mikel, while the Nigerian made up for his error moments later, scoring a crucial away goal in the 44th minute. Edinson Cavani scored the winner for the hosts in the 78th minute, which meant PSG take a narrow lead going into the second leg.
Paris St. Germain XI: Trapp; Marquinhos, Luiz, Silva, Maxwell; Motta, Matuidi, Verratti; Lucas Moura, Ibrahimovi, Di María
Chelsea XI: Courtois; Azpilicueta, Cahill, Ivanovic, Baba Rahman; Fabregas, Mikel; Pedro, Willian, Hazard; Costa
As the strains of the Champions League anthem rung out at the Parc des Princes, Chelsea could be forgiven for having a few butterflies in their stomach, given their dismal league position. From the way the game started, it did seem to be the case as PSG came out of the blocks on fire, with Marco Verratti and Lucas Moura having efforts on goal from range as the hosts dominated the opening 15 minutes of the game.
Having weathered the opening storm, Chelsea could have had a route back into the game against the run of play in the 23rd minute, as Diego Costa spurned a great chance to give the visitors a crucial away goal. Baba Rahman sent in a delicious cross from the left wing, but Costa did not direct his header downwards, but Kevin Trapp in the PSG goal still had to make a great reflex save, diverting the ball onto the bar with one arm.
Zlatan Ibrahimovic, for his part, did the opposite of what Costa did earlier, as he headed the ball way too much into the ground, spurning a free header in the 33rd minute. The Swede should have given the hosts the lead after Lucas Moura, who had been especially bright for the hosts, delivered a pin-point cross from the right wing.
The game came alive in the final stages of the first half, as PSG took the lead in the 38th minute. John Obi Mikel fouled Moura just on the edge of the box, thus earning himself a yellow card. The Nigerian followed that up with another mistake, as he turned his back on the ball as Zlatan Ibrahimovic thundered in a low free-kick, which took a deflection of Mikel and nestled into the Chelsea net with Courtois wrong-footed.
Mikel earned his redemption minutes later, as he equalized for the visitors in the 44th minute. Diego Costa did well to flick on a corner into Mikel’s path, and the Nigerian controlled the ball well with his first touch, allowing him to volley powerfully into Trapp’s net, thus ensuring that the teams went level into the break, with the scoreline reading 1-1.
PSG and Chelsea started the second half on an even keel as well, as the two sides traded chances in the opening stages of the second half. Kevin Trapp did well to charge off his line and deny Diego Costa after Willian played him through from a 49th minute counter attack ; while Di Maria and Ibrahimovic both drew good saves from Courtois in the following minutes.
Chelsea disappeared as an attacking entity as the second half wore on as Paris asserted their dominance with Chelsea struggling to deal the bursts of Maxwell down the wings, as the Brazilian was released into the box by an exquisite Di Maria through ball, but Courtois cleared. The Belgian was required to be at his best on the hour mark, as he saved from Lucas after the Brazilian found space after a quick one-two with Ibrahimovic.
The Blues were grateful for some last-ditch defending minutes later, as Matuidi’s close range shot from an Ibrahimovic knock down required Cahill and Ivanovic to resort to diving blocks. A spate of yellow cards followed as Pedro, Lucas and David Luiz all went into the book in the space of three minutes.
The game-changing substitution came in the 74th minute, as Lucas Moura surprisingly made way for Edinson Cavani, while Oscar came on for a quiet Eden Hazard. The Uruguayan produced the game’s winner in the 78th minute, as Di Maria clipped an exquisite through ball to Cavani on the right edge of the box, and he produced a wonderful finish from a narrow angle slotting the ball under Courtois to give the hosts a precious lead.
Zlatan Ibrahimovic had a great chance to give PSG a greater lead going into the second leg in the final minutes, but Courtois made himself big to deny the Swede. As the referee blew the final whistle moments later, the Parc des Princes roared in approval, as PSG consigned Guus Hiddink to only his second defeat as Chelsea manager across both his spells with the team so far, although the Blues will be glad to take an away goal going into the second leg.