PSG's Cavani beats Courtois

Champions League matches, oh how we’ve missed you. The world’s most prestigious club tournament finally returned to action on Tuesday after taking a two-month break. Tuesday’s Round of 16 fixtures featured a clash between Benfica and Zenit St. Petersburg, but it was the other match that was catching all of the attention. Despite a rocky record in the Premier League, Chelsea still find themselves competing with Europe’s best and travelled to Paris to take on Paris Saint-Germain in a rematch of last year’s Round of 16 matchup. There was a plenty of drama surrounding both teams going into the match, but who could stay focused and take an invaluable advantage from the first leg?

Both team’s starting lineups were missing key defensive players as Chelsea lost both of their starting center backs (Kurt Zouma and John Terry) to injury within the last week. PSG, on the other hand, were without fullback Serge Aurier who had been indefinitely removed from the squad due to some inappropriate and harsh comments he made during a Periscope video regarding manager Laurent Blanc. These defensive absences would come to define the match as fans were treated to an exciting back-and-forth attacking based matchup.

It was the hosts that started off on the front foot in this one, with Lucas Moura and Marco Verrati both trying their luck from range within the opening five minutes. Zlatan Ibrahimovic even came close minutes later with a free kick, but just like Lucas’ effort it flew just wide and failed to test Thibault Courtois in net. Despite PSG’s early dominance, Chelsea came closest to scoring in the 23rd minute. A great cross from defensive replacement Baba Rahman found Diego Costa, but the masked striker’s headed effort was tipped onto the bar by a brilliant reaction save from Kevin Trapp.

Zlatan had a chance of his own to head his side into the lead ten minutes later, only for his shot to bounce into the ground and over the net. The Swedish superstar didn’t let this disappointing miss affect his hunger for goal. In the 39th minute, Ibra lined up a free kick 25 yards out and his deflected effort left Courtois helpless in net. Zlatan’s first goal against Chelsea looked good enough to send PSG into the half a goal up, but the man that gave away the chance had other plans. In injury time, John Obi Mikel managed to control a corner from Willian and hammer in the equalizer past Trapp.

Chelsea came out firing in the second half and you could argue that they should have taken the lead after less than five minutes. A great through ball from Willian put Diego Costa one-on-one with Trapp, sadly for Costa the German keeper’s dominance continued as he kicked away a rather weak shot from the Chelsea striker. While both teams looked dangerous in the final third, they looked extremely vulnerable whenever a counter attack was on. On several occasions, Courtois was forced to come up with smart saves against Lucas and Angel Di Maria.

As the match dragged on, it became clear that PSG were the more dangerous of the sides. Other than a chance for Oscar in the final 15 minutes, it looked like Chelsea were aiming for a draw to take back to Stamford Bridge. Unfortunately for Blues’ fans, that’s not how it panned out. In the 77th minute, Edison Cavani found himself one-on-one against Courtois wide on the penalty area and somehow managed to slot the ball between the Belgian’s legs to secure the win for the hosts. Even with the great game Courtois had before that goal, you have to wonder if he should have handled it better.

On the bright side for Guus Hiddink’s side, they did manage to grab a vital away goal to take into the second leg, but it will be a tough task to beat this PSG side. Chelsea were in almost the same situation last year needing just a 1-0 result to secure safe passage to the Quarter-finals, but can they actually pull it off this time around. Based on today’s performance, I have a feeling that PSG will be the one advancing from this tie.


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