Zlatan scores vs. Chelsea

Image: Reuters

Wednesday’s round of Champions League fixtures featured a clash of titans as Paris Saint-Germain traveled to London to battle Chelsea. The Ligue 1 leaders had taken care of business at the Parc des Princes three weeks ago; claiming an important 2-1 victory over their English counterparts. Despite this initial defeat, Chelsea still found themselves with a good chance of advancing to the quarterfinals thanks to John Obi Mikel’s away goal. In theory, all the Blues needed was a 1-0 win to push into the last eight, but would they be able to sneak past PSG?

A lapse in judgment from PSG gifted Chelsea the first chance of the match after just three minutes. The hosts jumped on a misplaced pass from Maxwell and eventually found the feet of Diego Costa on the top of the box. The Spaniard shifted past David Luiz and forced Kevin Trapp into a diving save to keep the scores level.

The French club responded with a chance of their almost seconds later thanks to a darting run from Lucas Moura. The Brazilian winger danced through Chelsea’s midfield before finding a wide open Ángel Di María on the right wing. Di María’s low shot slid past Thibault Courtois but a slide tackle from makeshift center back Branislav Ivanovic cleared the ball off the line. Zlatan Ibrahimovic thought he had scored from the ensuing corner only to be adjudged offsides by the linesman.

Ibra would actually end up playing provider for PSG’s opening goal in the 16th minute. The Swede perfectly slid his across through the six-yard box and Adrien Rabiot was in the right spot at the back post to tap it home. Rabiot’s goal meant that Chelsea would need to score at least two goals just to force the match into extra time.

Despite the potentially demoralizing strike from PSG, Chelsea managed to get themselves back into the match ten minutes later. Willian found Costa on top of the penalty area and the former Atlético Madrid forward wrong-footed Thiago Silva to go one-on-one with Trapp. Costa hit a powerful curved effort past the German keeper to keep Chelsea’s hopes of European glory alive for the moment.

As the half drew to a close, Chelsea looked hungry for a second goal. Cesc Fàbregas and Eden Hazard came the closest, but neither were able to find the back of the net. Rabiot and Costa’s goals sent the sides into the intermission deadlocked at a goal apiece, but PSG held the upper hand.

On the hour mark, PSG began to make their push to cement their place in the quarterfinals. Zlatan went one-on-one with Courtois in the 61st minute, but the angle was too tight as the Belgian keeper easily blocked away his shot. After a quick succession of chances from Chelsea minutes later, with Willian and Hazard both coming close to finding the back of the net, the French club finally delivered the dagger in the 67th minute.

Similarly, to their goal earlier in the match, PSG’s second of the night was a tap-in at the far post. This time, however, it was Di María that swung in the cross with Ibrahimovic tapping the ball into the open net. Zlatan’s goal all but guaranteed PSG a spot in the next round with Chelsea now needing three goals to overcome their aggregate deficit.

Just like in the Roma/Real Madrid match on Tuesday, the second goal seemed to take the wind out of Chelsea’s sails. Guus Hiddink’s squad failed to create any real chances after Zlatan’s goal as they crashed out against PSG for the second year in a row. Laurent Blanc’s side looked very comfortable during the match and could very well be en route to become the first French club since Marseille in 1993 to win this historic tournament.


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