Chelsea will head into their Uefa Champions League second round return leg clash with Paris St-Germain with a slim away-goals edge after Tuesday’s closely contested reverse.
Branislav Ivanovic placed the ‘Blues’ ahead in the first half but Edinson Cavani headed in unmarked few minutes into the second half to ensure the French Ligue 1 champions left no stone unturned.
If football were mathematics, someone could, one way or another, have figured out a sequence for the outcome of this fixture, and possibly come up with a formula that wouldn’t undermine the away-goals rule. Chelsea progressed to the last 4 of the same competition last year despite a 3-1 defeat at the Parc des Princes; as the Londoners went on to keep guard at home.
Setting off the sequel to that meeting ten months ago involved the usual pre-match gimmick- a new look Chelsea against an injury ravaged PSG. But had Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Cavani taken their chances in a tense closing stages of the encounter, that outcome might have offered much to cherish for PSG but the fact still remains that the Premier League leaders are a side built for challenges.
PSG were quick to test their opponents with Blaise Matuidi and Ibrahimovic forcing Thibaut Courtois to parry headers in quick succession.
Eden Hazard, whose goal saw Chelsea progress the last term, then drove into the opposition area from the left, but Silvatore Sirigu clung onto his cross-shot before Courtois pushed Cavani’s powerful header behind.
The 2012 champions got in front courtesy of none other but the envy of some slack attackers, Ivanovic. The trio of Chelsea’s back four combined, with captain John Terry retrieving possession on the left and his in swinging cross was flicked on by Garry Cahill to the Serb, who reacted superbly to thump home a powerful header.
Ibrahimovic couldn’t keep his free-kick down as PSG sought for a quick response but to no avail with referee Cuneyt Cakir bringing the first half to a close much to the delight of the traveling supporters.
Laurent Blanc’s men did not have to wait too long to restore parity on restart as Matuidi floated in a pinpoint delivery and Uruguay forward Cavani had all the space in the world to rise and head past Courtois.
The Belgian goalkeeper was Chelsea’s saving grace moments later, denying Ibrahimovic from close range with his feet before Cesar Azpilicueta cleared Ezekiel Lavezzi’s goal bound follow up off the line.
Cavani almost grabbed his brace nine minutes from time after evading Nemanja Matic, only to end up poking his effort towards the far corner- just wide of the post and Courtois.
There was Ibrahimovic with the salient of them all chances; the Swedish striker powering through at the far post to head a cross into the turf from six yards out and watch the ball bounce up. Courtois was quick to push the ball to safety and keep both sides are on equal footing before 11 March return leg.