Chelsea 2 PSG 0 (agg 3-3): Mourinho dreams of European glory once more as Blues overturn two-goal deficit to reach semi-finals
Champions League match report from Stamford Bridge
It was fortuitous that Jose Mourinho opted for a tracksuit rather than the smarter gear last night, because when the second goal went in to propel his team into the Champions League semi-finals he was off down the touchline like it was 2004 at Old Trafford all over again.
Another stupendous night of European football at Stamford Bridge. Another thrilling conclusion. Another win pulled off by the manager who has never lost a quarter-final in the Champions League in his life and was not about to start the habit now. When substitute Demba Ba scored Chelsea’s second with three minutes of normal time remaining Mourinho headed down the touchline as he once did as Porto manager in that famous Champions League tie against Manchester United ten years ago.
This time he was going to tell his players how to defend the last few minutes of the game, pulling the substitute Fernando Torres off the pile first to shout instructions in his ear. Then he collared Andre Schurrle. At the critical point in the game, the Chelsea manager was once again at the centre of everything and yet again his team were turning the tables on one of the big guns in Europe.
Chelsea are in the semi-finals on away goals and as they celebrated at the end, you wondered why you had ever doubted them. This is the team that just tends to get its way in Europe. “Champions of Europe,” the home fans sang through the game, “we’ve done it before” and that warning certainly came true for Paris Saint Germain.
For all their investment, the men from Paris, defending a two goal lead, learned a little on Tuesday night of what it requires to be successful at this level. They just do not give in at Stamford Bridge, through the early loss of Eden Hazard to injury and finishing the game with every one of the three strikers that Mourinho rates so little on the pitch together. In the end it was Ba, the last man on Mourinho’s mind most of the time, who was the difference.
It did not look good for Chelsea, with 18 minutes played and Mourinho dispatching Schurrle down the touchline to warm-up. The Chelsea manager had selected Samuel Eto’o in attack despite his pre-match acknowledgment that the striker was not fit, but this was not Eto’o who was struggling so early on in the game. Alarmingly for Mourinho, it was Hazard.
It was not just the loss of the man who has given Mourinho’s team their sharpest cutting edge this season, so early in the game; there was also PSG’s much stronger start to take into consideration too. They approached the game on the front foot, attacking in the early stages and dominating possession. With Ezequiel Lavezzi on the left and the even pacier Lucas Moura on the right, they looked like the team more likely to win on the night by a two-goal margin.
But these high-end Champions League ties can switch-around so quickly. There are so many good players on the pitch that momentum can be switched around in the blink of an eye. For Chelsea it was just around the half hour stage when they exerted a grip on the game and scored their first.
Until then, Thiago Motta in particular had been in control of the game in the middle for PSG with Frank Lampard and David Luiz struggling to get a hold of the ball. Then Lampard’s free-kick from the left was deflected off the PSG wall and Salvatore Sirigu was obliged to throw himself across to his near post for a very good save.
On 32 minutes Chelsea scored their first, a long throw from Branislav Ivanovic and a flick-on from Luiz that belonged to another era of football. As for PSG, they did not react at all and Schurrle had time to sweep the ball past Sirigu with his right foot, unmarked in the area. The German had looked composed from the moment he came on. A pity that a chance four minutes later from another Lampard free-kick did not fall to him, instead it dropped to Gary Cahill who swung wildly and sliced the ball well wide.
In the closing stages of the half Eto’o burst forward with the kind of power that Chelsea have often lacked in attack and it required a brilliant tackle from Thiago Silva, coming in from the side, to win the ball. There had been a penalty appeal of sorts by Schurrle after a collision with Verratti on 33 minutes and although Mourinho slumped back in his chair when it was not given, the Portuguese referee Pedro Proenca had called it right.
It did not take much for the second half to ignite too, not least when Chelsea struck the bar twice in the space of a minute in an absorbing phase of attacking play. Lampard and then Willian from the right combined to pick out Schurrle on that right foot of his on 52 minutes and his shot rattled Sirigu’s bar.
Recycled out on the left, Eto’o was fouled and from the free-kick Oscar beat Sirigu again. His shot located the same part of the bar that Schurrle had hit earlier. PSG survived with their lead in the tie intact and saw off that period of pressure. If nothing else, it had developed into a wonderful tie with the tension that one mistake capable of swinging it either way.
When the changes came it was Ba, whom Mourinho opted for first, and then Torres. A surprise given that even though the Chelsea manager rates Torres so little, he seems to rate Ba even less. This was the last roll of the dice from Mourinho, who had seen Eto’o do little of note after half-time. All he needed was one goal.
It came from Ba, who got ahead of Maxwell to score when Cesar Azpilicueta’s shot found its way into the area. There was a flurry of pressure at the end but Petr Cech in particular along with the excellent Cahill stood strong to hold for another remarkable win.
Chelsea (4-2-3-1): Cech; Ivanovic, Cahill, Terry, Azpilicueta; Luiz, Lampard; Hazard, Oscar, Willian; Eto’o.
Subs: Hazard/Schurrle 18, Ba/Lampard 66, Torres/Oscar 81,
PSG (4-2-3-1): Sirigu; Jallet, Thiago Silva, Alex, Maxwell; Verratti, Thiago Motta; Moura, Matuidi, Lavezzi; Cavani.
Subs: Cabaye/Verratti 55, Lavezzi/Pastore 73, Marquinhos/Moura 85
Man of the match: Cahill
Booked: Chelsea Ivanovic, Willian, Lampard, Luiz PSG Verratti, Cavani, Moura, Maxwell
Source: The Independent
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