PSG's Edinson Cavani gets redemption in Chelsea win, but more needed
In football, you can buy talent and assets, but you can't buy desire. Paris Saint-Germain are a club driven by the aim of one day winning the Champions League. They are putting together a fantastic squad, building a wonderful training ground and refurbishing an already impressive stadium to an even better standard.
But they are not there yet. They are still learning, and Tuesday night's 2-1 win over Chelsea in the Champions League round of 16 first leg was another big lesson.
Everybody had forgotten about eventual match-winner Edinson Cavani in the build-up to the game; it was all about Serge Aurier and his stupidity, Marco Verratti and his fitness, or Zlatan Ibrahimovic's underwhelming form at this stage of the competition (just seven of his 45 UCL goals had come in the knockouts.)
Punished for having left Paris early for the winter break without the club's permission, Cavani has spent much of 2016 on the bench. He has been dreadful all year, losing all confidence in front of goal, as we saw in the 0-0 draw against Lille last weekend where he missed some big chances.
The Uruguayan is not perfect and not the most efficient up front, but he is a warrior and will never give up. Nothing has been going his way recently, but when he came on for Lucas Moura against Chelsea, he had 16 minutes to make the difference.
And boy, did he do just that. It was pure redemption. His deliverance came four minutes after coming on. His run off the ball was fantastic, spinning Branislav Ivanovic perfectly, and his finish under the advancing Thibaut Courtois from Angel Di Maria's sublime pass was beautiful.
"It was a fantastic night," he said after the game. "It is a new life for me. Strikers live to score goals. The recent weeks were difficult for me and I have made a lot of efforts to change things."
His celebration -- full of frustration, joy and anger -- was affecting to watch. By scoring one goal in the biggest game of the season so far, he put some difficult months behind him. His redemption, driven by pride and a desire to silence the critics, is an example to all.
Unlike Cavani, who has now scored three times against Chelsea, Ibrahimovic didn't need to redeem himself on Tuesday. He had another challenge on his hands: proving doubters wrong, showing up those who say he doesn't deliver in big games or score against English clubs.
Big games belong to big players and, even if he was lucky with his free kick that opened the scoring as the ball deflected off John Obi Mikel, Ibra spread fear in the Chelsea defence. Courtois had to save his shots twice, and like Lucas and Blaise Matuidi, he led by example.
Ibrahimovic's goal celebration also showed that this one meant a lot to him, especially after what happened last season, when he was invisible in the first leg in Paris and sent off after 30 minutes in the second leg in London.
English clubs have always been his bogey teams -- he has netted only three times in 18 encounters in Europe against Premier League sides before. It seems a long time ago when, against Real Madrid at the Parc des Princes back in the group stages in October, he only touched the ball three times in their penalty area during the whole game. But on Tuesday, he was decisive in a big match, like big players are.
What PSG were missing, though, is a killer instinct. Yes, eventually they scored the second goal of the game, but they missed big chances before Cavani's clincher. If you think of the three big favourites to win the Champions League -- Barcelona, Bayern Munich and Real Madrid -- you would not see any of them being so wasteful in front of goal.
It is not just about talent, which PSG have in abundance, it is also about attitude -- the one chance, one goal mentality.
If coach Laurent Blanc was happy with the result, he rued the missed opportunities.
"Winning by just one goal after the performance we produced flatters Chelsea. At least it will make a very open second leg, and we know we will have chances to score over there too," he said after the game.
The problem is that the Parisians are not demanding enough. With 22 wins in 26 games and no defeats thus far, they are not being challenged by the French league, and they know they will have so many chances in each domestic game that they can afford to miss some with no consequences.
In their strongest period -- the first 20 minutes of the second half, where they had Chelsea on the ropes -- PSG should have scored one or two.
In big European games like this one, you need to capitalise on your dominance or you will get punished. PSG almost were punished, as Diego Costa and Oscar had two big chances at 1-1. They got away with it this time, but to win the Champions League, they will need to have that killer instinct and make sure they take the one or two chances they get in the game.
For now, PSG have the advantage in this tie, but their desire will determine how far they can go.
Julien Laurens is a London-based French journalist who writes for ESPN FC and Le Parisien. Follow him on Twitter: @LaurensJulien.