Sunday 25 February 2018

Zlatan strikes as Chelsea bow out of Europe

Chelsea 1 Paris Saint Germain 2 (PSG win 4-2 on aggregate)

Zlatan Ibrahimovic celebrates after scoring the second goal for PSG
Zlatan Ibrahimovic celebrates after scoring the second goal for PSG

Matt McGeehan

Zlatan Ibrahimovic sent Chelsea tumbling out of the Champions League as Paris St Germain claimed a 2-1 last-16 second-leg win at Stamford Bridge.

Diego Costa had looked like being the night's hero after an all-action display and cancelling out Adrien Rabiot's opener.

But Costa was substituted after an hour due to injury and Ibrahimovic struck seven minutes later to secure a 4-2 aggregate success.

Ibrahimovic, on the eve of the tie, had denied seeking revenge after 12 months ago being sent off at Stamford Bridge, but had vowed he was better than ever as he continues to chase the triumph in this competition which has proved elusive in his illustrious career so far.

Zlatan Ibrahimovic scores against Chelsea
Zlatan Ibrahimovic scores against Chelsea

And as he impressed, duly PSG advanced to a fourth straight Champions League quarter-final and Chelsea were left to contemplate the probability of being absent from the competition next season.

Eden Hazard was again disappointing and he was booed by a handful of home supporters as he was replaced 13 minutes from time.

Away goals had separated the sides in the last two seasons - Chelsea won the quarter-final tie in 2014, but were defeated at the last-16 stage in 2015 - and John Obi Mikel's strike on February 16 at Parc des Princes gave Chelsea a fighting chance.

The performance of Costa did, too. The striker was labelled a "fraud" on social media by PSG on the eve of the contest and shed his protective mask inside 10 minutes to reveal himself.

Adrien Rabiot is congratulated by teammates after scoring the opening goal
Adrien Rabiot is congratulated by teammates after scoring the opening goal

Costa forced a save from Kevin Trapp in the opening moments after Rabiot, in for the injured Marco Verratti, had given the ball away.

Then Angel Di Maria and Lucas Moura set to work, targeting Chelsea's left where Kenedy was deployed at full-back.

Branislav Ivanovic scampered back to deny Di Maria, after Lucas fed the former Manchester United winger, before Ibrahimovic stole in down the right and his cross beat Chelsea's defence for Rabiot to tuck in at the far post. Kenedy was missing in action.

The television cameras panned to Chelsea's injured captain John Terry, who was surely contemplating the end of his Champions League career.

PSG, who are without challengers in Ligue 1, looked like they had not had to defend all season. And Costa was more of a nuisance than Laurent Blanc had predicted.

PSG, leading 3-1 and with Mikel's away goal wiped out, continued to play at a high tempo as they sought another. But they looked vulnerable, too.

Thiago Motta lost the ball in midfield to Pedro, who combined with Willian and then Costa, who did the rest. He turned Thiago Silva and fired into the bottom corner.

It was just his second Champions League goal in 15 games for Chelsea, but his 11th goal in 15 appearances under interim manager Guus Hiddink, whose only prior defeat since his appointment was in the first leg. It gave the Blues belief.

Ibrahimovic headed at Thibaut Courtois, while Cesc Fabregas shot wide and Hazard weakly at Trapp, who next saved sharply from Costa.

Hazard and Di Maria swapped shirts at half-time. Hiddink wanted Hazard to show his best after an anonymous first leg, but the Belgian was again poor.

Costa had been a menace, but departed and Chelsea's only other real attacking threat was Willian. He stretched Trapp before Hazard's poor follow-up was also saved.

Ibrahimovic then delivered, netting from Di Maria's cross. It was a cathartic moment for the Sweden striker, who missed the 2014 tie through injury and called Chelsea's players "babies" following his sending-off 12 months ago.


"The English love throwing stones at #Ibrahimovic ...keep throwing them! He'll construct a statue to his genius...using his feet!" - Ray Hudson (@rayhudson), former Newcastle player and US TV commentator.



Thibaut Courtois: 7 (out of 10)

Cesar Azpilicueta: 6

Kenedy: 6

Branislav Ivanovic: 7

Gary Cahill: 7

John Obi Mikel: 6

Cesc Fabregas: 7

Pedro: 7

Diego Costa: 8

Eden Hazard: 5

Willian: 8


Bertrand Traore (for Costa, 60 minutes): 6

Oscar (for Hazard, 77): 6


Diego Costa. With the striker on the field, Chelsea had a chance. Once he departed, it appeared like that opportunity had gone.


It had to be Zlatan. Ibrahimovic had a score to settle - he missed the 2014 second leg through injury and was sent off in the 2015 tie - and his goal ended the tie as a contest.


Chelsea's XI showed one change from the first leg, with Kenedy, an attacking player, fielded at left-back. His positional weakness was exploited by PSG in the first half, in particular. The withdrawal of Costa saw Chelsea lose their attacking focal point and threat as Hazard again disappointed.


Once again Hazard, Chelsea's leading performer last season, disappeared, this time in Chelsea's biggest game of the season. The Belgian appeared to welcome overtures from PSG ahead of the first leg and swapped shirts with Di Maria at half-time, before being booed by a smattering of supporters when he was substituted in the second half.

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