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Verdict: Chelsea lacked fight and were filled with fear

By Steven Beacom

Chelsea blew it. Oui, Paris St Germain were magnifique, but the boys in blue only have themselves to blame.

This was a pitiful performance from the best side in England.

They crashed out of the Champions League last night losing the tie on away goals, following 120 minutes of compelling drama, when really they should have cruised into the quarter-finals.

For the Special One, this exit will hurt against a PSG side, previously questioned at this level, who showed their mettle, fighting back twice to draw 2-2 which was enough to see them through.

Of course there was controversy along the way. There always is. This is Jose Mourinho's Chelsea after all.

Fitting that Jeremy Clarkson was at Stamford Bridge. He's no stranger to it either. Or confrontations for that matter and there were plenty of those in west London. Referee Bjorn Kuipers got some big decisions wrong, but he wasn't helped by the antics of the players, on and off the ball.

Usually Chelsea win these bruising battles.

Not this time. They were stuck in reverse, never reaching anything close to top gear in sharp contrast to PSG, who remember played, as it turned out, three quarters of the game with 10 men following Zlatan Ibrahimovic's dubious first half dismissal.

Laurent Blanc's side may have been a man down for most of the match, but were superior in virtually every department. They even matched the Blues in the shady area of dark arts, giving as good as they got when the pushing, shoving and ugly stuff started. Once their biggest name saw red rather than the yellow card warranted for his lunge on Oscar, with the Chelsea players howling for the referee to take action, most inside the ground were convinced the home side would power to victory.

They didn't legislate for a lethargic display from Mourinho's men and PSG, defeated last season by Chelsea in the European Cup, to become inspired.

While the Premier League leaders laboured, the French, playing a clever game, created chances. In the second half Edinson Cavani and Javier Pastore went close to breaking the deadlock with the home fans looking increasingly anxious. It had to be more comfortable than this. Jose's players, normally so clinical, were nervous wrecks.

The tension appeared to have eased when Gary Cahill smacked home from inside the area with nine minutes left, but rather than take control, Chelsea retreated and Stamford Bridge old boy David Luiz, a laughing stock when playing in England, took advantage powering in a stunner header. Surely Chelsea would wake up in extra time.

Thiago Silva, excellent up until then, even gifted them a penalty for handball on 96 minutes which Eden Hazard converted.

But still, incredibly, Mourinho's men failed to find their renowned mental toughness and played with fear. PSG's character and class would not be denied. Silva's thumping header on 114 drew the game and won the tie.

It was richly deserved.

Belfast Telegraph


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