Here’s what happened in Tuesday’s marquee tilt between Paris Saint-Germain and Chelsea in the UEFA Champions League…
WHAT STOOD OUT: PSG vs. CHELSEA
Cavani comes to PSG’s rescue
With the score tied 1-1, PSG manager Laurent Blanc made a bold move by subbing out Lucas Moura in the 74th minute for the out-of-favour Edinson Cavani in hopes the Uruguayan could lead them to glory.
For most of the game up to that point PSG dominated possession (they ended up with 61 percent on the night) and dictated the pace of the match. The French champs came out flying from the opening kickoff, using a swarming press to overwhelm the visitors. But for all their pressure and possession, the contest was still undecided late in the proceedings.
Enter Cavani, who has lost his place in PSG’s starting 11 in recent weeks, and been reduced to a high-priced bench warmer. If ever the South American hit-man needed a goal to remind Blanc what he could do and make a case for more playing time, this was it, on Europe’s greatest club stage. Just four minutes after strolling onto the pitch, Cavani beat Chelsea’s offside trap by gliding past Branislav Ivanovic to latch onto a great ball from Angel Di Maria. Without breaking stride, Cavani headed straight towards goal and slipped a shot through the legs of an onrushing Thibaut Courtois.
It was a great finish by a great player who showed great poise and badly needed a goal, and it allowed PSG to run out as deserved winners, on the balance of play. Cometh the hour, cometh Cavani.
A sigh of relief for Chelsea
No doubt Chelsea will be disappointed with losing the first leg, especially as they were just 12 minutes away from earning a draw, a result that would have flattered the Premier League champions.
Still, Chelsea will be relieved by this score-line. For one, they scored the crucial road goal that gives them a big advantage going into the return match at Stamford Bridge. Chelsea kept its defensive shape and rode its luck in weathering the PSG storm in getting to the half tied at 1-1, and eventually only losing by a goal.
Second, the damage could have ben far worse if not for the play of Thibaut Courtois. The Belgian goalkeeper not only made a number of big saves, but he also showed a great deal of fearlessness in challenging PSG players as they were bearing down in the box. With John Terry missing through injury, Courtois acted as a third centre-back at times, fearlessly coming off his line with great quickness to snuff out the danger before it fully developed.
All this being said, Chelsea will have to be much better than they showed on this evening if they have any hope of defeating the French champions.
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In the 78th minute, Angel Di Maria played a perfectly weighted ball over the Chelsea defence and into the box for Cavani, who did well to peel away from Ivanovic before firing through the legs of Courtois with an exquisite finish.
The pre-match tifo display inside PSG’s Parc des Princes was spectacular:
Great crowd flaggage behind the goals at Parc des Princes pic.twitter.com/eLtHitY9Yc
— Sam Wallace (@SamWallaceTel) February 16, 2016
In the 23rd minute Chelsea fullback Abdul Baba Rahman delivered a cross deep into the box over the head of PSG defender David Luis for teammate Diego Costa. The Chelsea forward connected on a header but Kevin Trapp made an outstanding fingertip save with his trailing hand to send the ball off the crossbar and out of play.
— AS English (@English_AS) February 16, 2016
SIX PACK OF STATS
• PSG’s Zlatan Ibrahimovic has now scored in his last three Champions League games.
• PSG on Tuesday conceded its first home goal in the Champions League this season.
• PSG’s Laurent Blanc is only the second manager to defeat Guus Hiddink during his time in charge of Chelsea. Harry Redknapp is the other.
• Edinson Cavani has been involved in five goals in seven Champions League games vs. Chelsea (three goals, two assists).
• PSG have lost only one of their last 38 home games in European competition (25 wins, 12 draws).
• John Obi Mikel’s only previous Champions League goal came vs. Sporting Lisbon in December 2014.
Stats courtesy of Opta
1) Angel di Maria: The Argentine was sublime for PSG, burning Chelsea with his pace and creativity—his pass on Cavani’s winner was sensational.
2) Thibaut Courtois: He gave up two goals, but the Chelsea goalkeeper made a string of big saves and kept the Blues in the game.
3) Marco Verratti: The Italian was reliable as always in a holding midfield role for PSG; completed 93 percent of his passes.
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