Chelsea were knocked out of the UEFA Champions League last night by a Paris Saint-Germain side who dug deep despite being reduced to 10-men with almost an hour to play.
The game showed that Jose Mourinho’s men might no longer be the ‘little horses’ in their domestic league, but still have a lot to improve upon in the Champions League as small mistakes in Europe are often punished. Here are a few talking points from yesterday’s game.
Chelsea’s failure the make the extra man count for almost 90 minutes was criminal
When Zlatan Ibrahimovic was sent off in the 31st minute, PSG had a mountain to climb. Not only they had to stop Chelsea who had the numerical advantage, but also score a goal without arguably their best striker at the club. Despite have an extra man, it was surprising to see Chelsea’s slow and directionless build up play. Although credit should be given to PSG’s midfield and defense, it was baffling to see Chelsea’s quality attack line unable to breach past PSG’s defense.
Diego Costa was probably their best attacking player who tried to make a few runs, but his movement was rarely picked out by Fabregas and Oscar, both of whom were given attacking roles. Costa’s biggest disappointment will be the Cups this season as all of his 17 goals have come in the Premier League. The Spaniard has no goals to show for in the Champions League or any other cup competition.
Motta does to Mourinho with Blanc what he did to Guardiola with Mourinho at Inter
Thiago Motta’s inclusion in the starting lineup came as a bit of a surprise as David Luiz had done a decent enough job playing in the holding midfield role in the last leg. Motta however put in a display that any manager will be proud of. His performance rolled back the days when he was at Inter under Jose Mourinho and was asked to neutralize the fearsome Barcelona attack of 2010.
Although Barcelona’s and Chelsea’s styles are different, Motta still did a brilliant job in breaking up Chelsea’s lousy passing with his brilliant positioning. He followed that up with his calmness on the ball and having someone like Marco Verratti alongside him helped the veteran. Verratti played the more dynamic box-to-box role and as soon as Motta used to win the ball, Verratti’s availability helped ease Motta’s game.
Thiago Silva had the game of his life in the Champions League
PSG captain Thiago Silva was undoubtedly the man of the match in yesterday’s game as he produced one the finest displays he ever has in the Champions League. Although there was one moment of madness which could have cost his side the game, Silva made amends for his handball and scored the equaliser and the crucial second away goal that sent PSG through to the next round.
The Brazilian has been often criticized for his displays in the Champions League as he hasn’t shown the good form of the Ligue 1 in the European competition. Yesterday night, however, Silva showed exactly why he is PSG’s captain after a strong defensive performance.
Quality of refereeing has to improve in Europe
Both PSG and Chelsea were hard done by refereeing decisions as Dutch referee Bj rn Kuipers pretty much bottled it yesterday night. After wrongly send sending off Ibrahimovic in the 31st minute, Kuipers denied Chelsea a penalty in the first half as Costa was clearly taken down by Edinson Cavani. Kuipers then failed to notice the incident involving Costa and Marquinhos in the second half and it was even more baffling that the linesman did not report it to him.
The other game involving Bayern Munich and Shakhtar too had the same story as referee William Collum had a poor game. Although the better team deservedly won yesterday, poor refereeing decisions like yesterday will have to stop as the competition is entering a phase where the teams have it all to lose. Losing their best striker to a horrendous refereeing decision and him serving a ban will definitely hurt PSG in the next round.
PSG can genuinely challenge for the Champions League
PSG have now won the Ligue 1 for two seasons in a row and in the last two seasons they have gone out in the Champions League on away goals. The Parisians have enough quality in their side to hurt the top teams and they showed that in the group stages when they beat Barcelona. With a solid defense and the mixture of youth and experience in their attack, time has come for Laurent Blanc to focus on the Champions League. His decision of playing Motta yesterday in midfield turned out to be a master stroke and it was definitely brave of him to do that. With Real Madrid, Barcelona and Bayern Munich the possible opponents in the next round, Blanc will once again have to show his tactical expertise if PSG are to progress any further.