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Parisian power exposes Chelsea's striking lack of options

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Ezequiel Lavezzi celebrates after scoring the opening goal for PSG during the UEFA Champions League quarter-final first-leg match against Chelsea at Parc des Princes

Ezequiel Lavezzi celebrates after scoring the opening goal for PSG during the UEFA Champions League quarter-final first-leg match against Chelsea at Parc des Princes

Ezequiel Lavezzi celebrates after scoring the opening goal for PSG during the UEFA Champions League quarter-final first-leg match against Chelsea at Parc des Princes

Roman Abramovich has been in English football so long he counts as old money by now. So long, in fact, that the Soviet Union is re-forming – or so Ukraine might feel.

But new money will always come along to challenge him, as Paris Saint-Germain took three minutes to demonstrate here.

Ezequiel Lavezzi's stunning early goal came at the expense of the English yeomanry. Chelsea's defence is the best in the Premier League with 24 goals conceded in 32 matches and John Terry has been at the heart of that solidity.

It was Terry's headed clearance, though, that fell to Lavezzi, the left prong of a brilliant attacking trident that exposed Chelsea's use of Andre Schurrle as a false No 9 in a 3-1 defeat as a sign of weakness.

Not that Chelsea let that initial shock derail them. Before half an hour had passed they were level through an Eden Hazard penalty as PSG themselves ran into the tactical stubbornness of Jose Mourinho, whose first match in Europe as Chelsea manager was against these Parisians.

Terry, Petr Cech and Frank Lampard survive from that fixture, but just about everything else has changed. Bossing French football is not the extent of PSG ambitions, as they declared on 61 minutes when Lavezzi's free-kick was knocked into his own net by David Luiz.

The top tier of the European game is brutally competitive. One transfer policy lapse can undermine the whole corporation. Chelsea's was not bolstering their gang of strikers last summer, so that Fernando Torres, at £50m, is considered a no-no in a Champions League quarter-final.

Torres sat with Demba Ba on the bench before replacing Schurrle, while PSG's Qatari owners paraded their formidable spending power: over £300m on transfer fees. Many of PSG's fans seem new to the party.

Their replica shirts are immaculate. Some look like wealthy undergraduates from middle-eastern lands. As ever the old-school bouncers and bawlers gather behind the goals in a stadium some of us remember from its dusty Five Nations cauldron days.

A gap in the market spotted by Qatari sovereign managers has cast this team into the platinum club of European wealth-monuments. Chelsea were there already, of course, from the day Abramovich brought a vast fortune acquired from the break-up of the Soviet Union into the English game.

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Abramovich is no fly-by-night, but he had no way of knowing Abu Dhabi would invest so heavily in Manchester City or that Qatar would throw the country's natural resources at PSG.

PSG are no rich man's toy. With that kaleidoscopic forward line they would frighten anyone. Ibrahimovic had scored 10 in the Champions League this season and 41 in his last 36 appearances for club and country.

In the centre of midfield, Thiago Motta prowls with cool assurance. To his right, Italian Marco Verratti, who went off injured, is busy and economical. Thiago Silva is the star defender, despite his foul on Oscar, which led to Chelsea's first-half equaliser. In the coaching zone stands Le President, as Laurent Blanc was known for his statesmanlike qualities.

Mourinho may have two Champions League titles in the bag, but Blanc has the bigger budget.

Lavezzi, who outshone Ibrahimovic and Cavani, was a constant menace to Chelsea's back line. When Verratti departed he was replaced by Newcastle's ex best player, Yohan Cabaye. So this is no vanity project, but a squad set up for European conquest.

For Chelsea, England's most credible standard bearers, the task of keeping pace with Bayern, the two Spanish giants and now PSG is no smaller after this visit to the Parc des Princes. When Torres trod on the ball and lost it 11 minutes from the end you could almost see the Qatari gauntlet fall at Abramovich's feet.

Modern football is an arms race. Its language is escalation. Chelsea have the manager and three-quarters of a very fine team. But the next step begs to be taken. They need strikers, even if Ibrahimovic misses the return leg.

Chelsea need what PSG and the others have. (© Daily Telegraph, London)


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