Tuesday 12 December 2017

How and why did Paris Saint-Germain beat Chelsea

Edinson Cavani is a target for Chelsea
Edinson Cavani is a target for Chelsea

Matt Law

How PSG overcame a battling French side in Paris in the first-leg of their Champions League quarter-final.

Benches came into play

The substitutes’ bench proved to be vital, as Edinson Cavani was sent on and extended his good record against Chelsea. The Uruguayan has been in poor form for Paris Saint-Germain in Ligue 1, but he enjoys facing the Blues and his strike through the legs of Thibaut Courtois meant he has been involved in five goals (three goals and two assists) in seven Champions League games against the Stamford Bridge club.

Chelsea are still very much in the tie, as they go back to England with an away goal and only a one-goal deficit to make up. But they will not want to see the sight of Cavani again, no matter how poor he might be in between time.

Interim manager Guus Hiddink will not be too worried that his unbeaten run was broken, as long as the Blues can win the second leg and progress. It will be tough, but it is not beyond them.

Chelsea’s patched up defence almost held firm... almost

The opening stages looked ominous for a Chelsea defence without captain John Terry, Kurt Zouma or the suspended Nemanja Matic to protect them. Lucas Moura, Angel Di Maria and Zlatan Ibrahimovic clearly sensed an opportunity to kill the tie in the first leg, but Chelsea’s makeshift backline, through some good defending and good fortune, managed to keep the scoreline down.

Cesar Azpilicueta, switched to the right side, made a crucial tackle in the first half, while Gary Cahill stretched to cut out a Maxwell cross that looked set to produce a goal and threw himself in front of a Blaise Matuidi shot. Baba Rahman looked more comfortable going forwards than tracking back on the left and the Ghana international put over one perfect cross that Diego Costa should have scored with his head.

Instead, PSG goalkeeper Kevin Trapp pushed the ball on to the crossbar. Chelsea goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois could count himself unfortunate to be beaten by Ibrahimovic’s free-kick that deflected off John Obi Mikel and was not at fault for Cavani’s winner.

Zlatan proved he could still shine in the Premier League

Despite the fact he is now aged 34 and covers even less ground than he used to, Zlatan Ibrahimovic would still be a welcome addition in the Premier League if he does not renew his PSG contract at the end of the season. The striker will be offered huge money to go to China, the USA or the Middle East but it would be great to see him in England – even as he comes towards the end of his colourful career.

His deflected free-kick goal against Chelsea was not one for the Ibrahimovic showreel, but it was his 24th of the season for PSG. The Sweden international remains a mesmerising sight and his touch and awareness remain second only to Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo. He could still hold down a place in the teams of any of England’s biggest and richest clubs, and we can only hope that one enters the auction.

How they reacted

Guus Hiddink: "I envy the bench of PSG. A very strong bench of 15 or 16 international players, which is very good. If you see what this team can bring on in the second half, world-class players as substitutes. This is a very strong PSG, a very well built team in their total squad.

“We had to reshuffle, of course. If you saw us even one week ago, we'd played with Terry and Zouma, so we had to reshuffle. The full-backs have different positions now, but I'm still happy with their performances.

“Of course, a defeat is never a good or nice feeling, but it's a two-legged game. Scoring away is always good. We reflect on that and on the very good tactical, defensive organisation. We had some danger also. We were not killing in the four or five counters we had. We could have gone a bit further than that.

"If you're not going to have the balls to stand there, don't be in the wall"

Rio Ferdinand on John Obi Mikel

“But, losing 2-1, we're still in the race. In two legs it is important to have an away goal. If we can do it at Stamford Bridge then a defeat doesn't count so much.”

Branislav Ivanovic: "It was a very difficult game - but we keep going we keep fighting, we will do everything we can at home to go through. It was a very difficult for the whole team - but we came here with courage and we had a couple of chances to win the game. We lose a little bit of concentration at the end and the top strikers take every single chance. We need to be more careful in London.

Gary Cahill: "We pushed for the goal, and we're obviously disappointed 1-1 would have been a great result. We defended really well throughout the game and dug in. We go onto the home leg, we know what we have to do. We know how hard it is here - it's very difficult to get a result here. it's well poised."

Who was the man of the match?

Gary Cahill

Produced his best John Terry impression without Chelsea’s captain next to him, as the central defender threw himself in front of every shot and cross that came into the six-yard box – and there were a lot of them.


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