With PSG dominating Ligue 1 completely and utterly, what is happening domestically in France has assumed the normal status now. What really matters is success in the continental competition as dominating domestically, with the kind of monetary advantage the side has, is a given. Champions League success is what it essentially boils down to, and for the French giants to progress further, they will need to beat a familiar opponent — Chelsea.
To reach the quarter-finals PSG must overcome Chelsea as they did last season in an epic encounter at the same stage of the competition. The first leg in Paris saw the game tied at 1-1, making the Stamford Bridge second leg the penultimate one. What was on display in London is what you could describe as “ugly” — a match punctuated by fouls and contentious incidents.
Just after half an hour, Ibrahimovic made a move on Oscar which was clumsy and mistimed. A player of Ibra’s stature is naturally asking for trouble, when leaping at full speed. The striker did realise that it was too late to connect with the ball and turned his leg away and as a result, his studs were not showing. What stood out about the incident however, was the fact that nine Chelsea players crowded around the referee, asking for the PSG talisman to be sent off. John Terry and César Azpilicueta led the outrage. After the match, the striker described his annoyance at seeing the Blues players trying to get him sent off. He said, “The worst is when I got the red card all the Chelsea players come around. It felt like I had 11 babies around me.”
If PSG felt annoyed at the referee’s decision then, they too got let off as Cavani tripped Costa in the first half where Chelsea could have had a penalty.
Being a man less so early in the game, and that too when that man is arguably your most influential player is tough, but PSG refused to give up. They played with grit and came close to scoring a few times. At around the 57th minute, Thiago Motta sent Cavani clear with a delicious pass. The Uruguayan did everything right, he went around Courtois, and was through on goal, but his shot clipped the inside of one post and then flashed past the other.
With no goals coming as late as the 80th minute, it looked as though the game was certainly heading to extra time.
Gary Cahill begged to differ as he ensured some scrappy work on PSG’s part went punished. The goal was in stark contrast to whatever we saw before. All the tough, gritty, resolute work on part of the visitors was undone as PSG failed to clear a corner as keeper Salvatore Sirigu saved from Ramires. Costa’s attempt on goal fell kindly for Cahill, who made no mistake. The fact that the goal came in the 81st minute made one feel that PSG were going to fall victim to Chelsea two seasons in a row.
It was David Luiz’s turn to say no just five minutes later, as the former Chelsea defender beat Branislav Ivanovic to a corner and sent a thumping header high past Courtois.
The game was now in extra time.
Chelsea got ahead once again through a debatable penalty as Thiago Silva’s aerial challenge with Chelsea substitute Kurt Zouma in the 96th minute, was viewed as malicious. Eden Hazard didn’t miss penalties back then.
Once again, it looked like all of PSG’s good work in the game was undone by another moment of scrappiness. But the Brazilian captain, who almost cost the visitors that game was ready to make amends, as his towering header from a corner in the 116th minute couldn’t be stopped by the brilliant Courtois, who kept a similar effort out just moments ago.
There were no further alarms for PSG who were able to see the game out by then. A man down for 90 minutes, put behind not once but twice, what was put on display by Blanc’s men was absolutely brilliant. Chelsea couldn’t control the game after having a man advantage for the larger part of the game, they couldn’t control it after getting the lead in the dying embers of normal time, and they couldn’t do it after getting it in the extra time.
When other teams may have wilted in a similar situation, PSG simply refused to give up.