Chelsea has been the class of the English Premier League this season and took a positive step in the Champions League on Tuesday as they attempt to claim major trophies on both fronts—something an English club hasn’t done since Manchester United in 2008.
Chelsea was outplayed, but did enough to gain the advantage against Paris Saint-Germain in a 1–1 draw as the knockout stages of Europe’s most prestigious club football tournament—Champions League—got underway.
PSG is one of the more difficult opponents Chelsea could have drawn in the Round of 16. The star-studded French side is in a heated race for the Ligue 1 title after winning it the last two years. They’ve also shown consistency in Europe and have the chance to reach the quarterfinals for the third straight year.
PSG lost to Chelsea (on the away goals rule) last year after taking a 3–1 lead to Stamford Bridge and losing 2–0 in the second leg. But with a 1–1 draw in the first leg, the job for the Blues at the Bridge is more manageable this year.
Chelsea began the match with greater possession but generated few scoring chances. Bench boss Jose Mourinho clearly did not want a repeat of last season’s result in Paris and PSG seemed content to let Chelsea hold onto possession around midfield.
Mourinho opted for Ramires in midfield instead of the more attack-minded Oscar. Chelsea’s bench is very deep with the likes of Didier Drogba, Kurt Zouma, Juan Cuadrado, Loïc Remy, and Oscar. It needs to be to compete for three trophies.
In domestic Cup competitions, the Blues crashed out of the FA Cup in a disastrous performance at Stamford Bridge against Bradford in late January, but can save face with a win in the Capital One Cup final against Tottenham Hotspur on March 1 at Wembley.
The Blues opened the scoring when three of their defenders combined beautifully in the PSG box. John Terry found his central defense partner Gary Cahill who flicked the ball on to Branislav Ivanovic. The Serb then headed past Salvatore Sirigu in the PSG goal.
Ivanovic has blossomed into a serious goal threat for Chelsea with three goals in his last five games. He has to be considered one of the world’s best full backs.
PSG had their chances in the first half but the star of the night was Chelsea goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois. The lanky Belgian made key saves in the first half off headers from Blaise Matuidi, Zlatan Ibrahimovic, and Edinson Cavani.
“He’s amazing. He’s fantastic,” said PSG’s David Luiz. “We played a very good game. We’re happy with the team show.” PSG did play well and recorded 14 attempts at goal to Chelsea’s two. The French team also won seven corners to Chelsea’s one, but could not make the most of their chances.
The pressure was on PSG in this match and they changed the tempo in the second half. A brief lapse in Chelsea’s defense cost them as Cavani was left unmarked and headed a perfect Matuidi cross past Courtois in the 54th minute. Cavani also had a chance to win it in the 79th minute, but his low shot narrowly missed the far side of the net.
PSG was a bit unlucky not to get a shot on goal when Ezequiel Lavezzi’s shot deflected off Terry and then César Azpilicueta after a nice move from Ibrahimovic.
And Courtois came up with another save off an Ibrahimovic header in second half extra time. The big Swede, on both of his chances, headed downward with Courtois making the save off the bounce.
Terry lauded his keeper who hasn’t seen much action recently. The veteran also likes where his side is presently. “We’re in a lot better position now,” he said when comparing to last year against PSG after the first leg.
Chelsea sit seven point clear at the top of the English Premier League with 13 more games to be played. The title is clearly theirs to lose and barring a disaster, they look like they’ll win their first title in five years.
And in three weeks’ time, they’ll face PSG in London with a chance to reach their fourth Champions League quarterfinal in the last five years. A win or a goalless draw is all it takes. Right now, things are looking good for the Blues.