Zlatan Ibrahimovic stars as PSG dump Chelsea from the Champions League
LONDON -- Three points from Stamford Bridge, as PSG won 2-1 on the night to take a 4-2 aggregate win over Chelsea to book their spot in the Champions League quarterfinals.
1. Paris Saint-Germain march on
Paris Saint-German advanced to the last eight of the Champions League with an impressive attacking performance at Stamford Bridge. Adrien Rabiot opened the scoring for PSG after 16 minutes, and although Diego Costa pulled a goal back for Chelsea 11 minutes later, Zlatan Ibrahimovic sealed the tie for the French side with 23 minutes left to play.
PSG looked dangerous from the start. The front three of Lucas Moura, Angel Di Maria and Ibrahimovic pulled Chelsea's defence all over the pitch. The home side were missing John Terry because of injury, but even the inspirational captain might have struggled with the movement and ingenuity of the PSG front line. Within the first 10 minutes Lucas, running across the field, slid the ball through to Di Maria, who chipped the ball past Thibaut Courtois. Branislav Ivanovic blocked the goal-bound shot with a late slide.
That was a warning. The opening goal arrived shortly afterward.
Di Maria, who was getting plenty of time to pick his passes, played the ball down the inside-right channel. Ibrahimovic made an angled run and went to the byline, and his clever cross was met by Rabiot, who had the simple task of bundling the ball into the net. Kenedy, at left-back, had a torrid night. Laurent Blanc obviously made a point of targeting the 20-year-old.
It took a mistake to get Chelsea back into the game. Thiago Motta lost control of the ball in his own half, and Willian, who was alert to every misplaced PSG pass, pounced. He exchanged passes with Pedro and fed Costa, who turned Thiago Silva before leveling the score with a low finish.
Chelsea stormed forward after that and had their chances. Eden Hazard, who was again disappointing, curled in a shot that Kevin Trapp pushed away. Willian stung the goalkeeper's hands in the second half.
Yet the home side were always vulnerable. PSG emerged from a spell of Chelsea pressure when Rabiot pounced on a loose ball and knocked a pass to Di Maria inside of Cesar Azpilicueta. The Argentine's cross found Ibrahimovic in the 6-yard box, and the PSG striker finished with aplomb.
Some of the life seemed to go out of Chelsea when Costa limped off to be replaced by Bertrand Traore on the hour mark. In the end, though, PSG went through comfortably.
2. Hiddink's gamble
Chelsea needed goals and always looked liable to concede without Terry at the back. Guus Hiddink had to weigh up whether to protect the back four with his central midfielders or throw them forward. He decided to pair Cesc Fabregas and John Obi Mikel in the centre, but the duo never imposed themselves on the game.
Fabregas, for one, was stationed too deep in midfield. He knocked a few 40-yard balls toward Costa, but the forward had his back to the goal and was well policed by Silva and David Luiz for the most part. When the Spaniard moved further up the field he was more dangerous, and as half-time approached, Fabregas got forward into a rare shooting position. The Spaniard pulled his effort wide, much to Costa's dismay.
Such forays forward were rare. Pedro and Willian pressed the PSG defenders well, but there was too much room behind them and too little creativity. Hazard was almost anonymous, and he was jeered when Oscar replaced him with 13 minutes left.
Fabregas at least looked interested; there have been times this season when he has appeared semi-detached. His effort and application could not be faulted against the French side -- only his effectiveness was a problem. The first job for the new manager arriving at Stamford Bridge this summer will be to fashion a coherent midfield capable of dominating games.
3. No defending PSG's mistakes
On Wednesday, PSG gave away the ball too often in their danger zone and created unexpected opportunities for Chelsea. With the game at 0-0, they knocked the ball about their own box with the unconcerned air of a side that were sitting deep in the opposition's half. Rabiot miscued to Willian on the edge of the box and the Brazilian found Costa, who drew a sharp save from Trapp.
That should have been a warning, but PSG repeated the mistake minutes later. They were far too casual on the ball, playing triangles 30 yards from their own goal before Marquinhos gifted a pass to Willian. The attack was snuffed out, but the French side clearly have a dangerous habit of living on the edge.
Willian profited most from PSG's generosity, taking advantage of Motta's mistake to set up the equalizing goal. The 27-year-old has been Chelsea's best player this season and created danger even when PSG looked well on top.
Luiz had a reputation for being lackadaisical and undisciplined during his spell at Stamford Bridge, but the Brazilian had one of his more controlled nights against his former side, holding his position well and making a crucial block on a Costa shot early in the second half. Better teams than Chelsea will take advantage of PSG's errors in the later stages of this competition, but if Luiz keeps up this form, he will not be the problem this time.
Tony Evans has been a sports journalist for more than 20 years. He writes for ESPN FC and is former football editor of The Times. Twitter: @tonyevans92a.