Chelsea recorded a result much better than their performance as they grabbed a draw and an away goal in the first leg of their Champions League last 16 clash against Paris Saint-Germain on Tuesday evening. The visitors took the lead through Branislav Ivanovic’s first half goal, but that was cancelled out by an Edinson Cavani header. PSG where by far the better team in the second half, and Jose Mourinho’s men had to dig in to hold back a rampant PSG attack.
The Blues started with a number of players who were injured or lacking match practice. Mourinho said he had five injured players on the pitch, which likely included Willian and Cesc Fabregas. Diego Costa returned but he wasn’t at his sharpest, given that he’s not played since last month. Despite having close to a week’s rest going into this game, Chelsea were far from full strength here.
There wasn’t too much action of note in the first half hour of the game, it was a pretty quiet affair, although Thibaut Courtois had to be on his toes to deny PSG on three occasions within the space of a couple of minutes. Neither side looked close to their best and from the early stages you could tell this game wasn’t going to match up to the quarter final meetings between these two last season.
After 35 minutes of the game, we finally had a breakthrough, with three defenders involved in the Chelsea goal. John Terry picked up the ball after a Thiago Silva clearance, and his cross was flicked into the path of Ivanovic by Gary Cahill’s back-heel. It was a remarkable piece of skill from Cahill, and it presented the right back with a great chance to put the Premier League leaders ahead. That was Ivanovic’s first European goal since scoring the winner in the 2013 Europa League final.
PSG looked shell-shocked after that goal, which is hardly surprising given this game came on the back of them blowing a two goal lead against Caen at the weekend. The French champions regrouped after half time and they were much better in the second half, pushing forward and creating chances.
Chelsea were struggling at the back, giving away chances that they usually wouldn’t. Poor marking in the box left Edinson Cavani free in the area, and he got on the end of Blaise Matuidi’s cross to head in the equaliser. Thibaut Courtois was called upon several times after that to save efforts from Zlatan Ibrahimovic, but he stood strong and Chelsea held onto the draw going into the second leg in three weeks.
While it was far from the best performance we’ve seen from the Blues this term, this was a result they probably would have taken before the game. With the scores level and an away goal in hand, Mourinho’s side must be heavy favourites ahead of the crucial return match at the Bridge.
LCN Man of the Match: Thibaut Courtois