Chelsea Complete The Great Escape

BA

 

Chelsea came back from the dead after beating Paris St. Germain 2-0 at Stamford Bridge and sneaking through to the semi-finals of the UEFA Champions League. A first half strike from Andre Schurrle and a late Demba Ba were enough to put the Blues through on away goals after the tie finished 3-3 on aggregate.

 

‘Fool me once and shame on you; fool on twice and shame on me.’ PSG must be feeling the full force of that idiom as they stumbled out of the Champions League. Last year it was the mere presence of an injured Lionel Messi that caused their downfall but this year’s elimination at the hands of Chelsea is even more inexplicable. The Parisians travelled to London knowing that any goal would kill the home team’s resistance and represent a massive step both psychologically and for the development of the project. The voices from the opposing camp were also reassuring as Jose Mourinho was taking every opportunity to remind the rest of Europe that he trusts his strikers just as much as James Bond can be trusted with not making eye contact with the most beautiful woman in a bar.

 

While the Portuguese bemoaned his lack of striking options, the French side were able to fill the void of missing Zlatan Ibrahimovic by introducing Edinson Cavani in his place. Not bad, is it? More good news was to come when Laurent Blanc watched Chelsea’s most dangerous attacker and the one player his club covet most – Eden Hazard – limp off after just 18 minutes. Mourinho threw in Schurrle knowing full well that the experimenting with the German as a striker had backfire in the first leg. But here the substitution – though forced – proved to be inspired as the former Bayer Leverkusen man stamped his mark on the game. A long throw from the right was knocked down by David Luiz and the German was on hand to turn the ball in from 8-yards. While Schurrle wheeled of to celebrate, Blanc – a classy center back in his days – would ask how the German was allowed to knock in a rebound uncontested in the penalty box?

 

Oh and it was most definitely game on.

 

While the French champions were still looking at each other for explanations, Chelsea passed up a golden chance to double their lead. A Frank Lampard free kick from the left went past Gary Cahill in the box but came back off Cavani to land at the Englishman’s feet but he criminally blazed his effort high and wide. The away side dodged another bullet when a last ditch tackle from Thiago Silva denied Samuel Eto’o one on one with the keeper. Despite enjoying a slender aggregate lead, Blanc continued to have faith in a more conservative approach and Chelsea were profiting greatly. The Stamford Bridge faithful were almost celebrating early in the 2nd half but Oscar’s free kick cannoned back of the bar. The latest near miss was enough to jolt Blanc into finally making a change as Yohan Cabaye replaced an ineffective Marco Veratti. Mourinho responded by making one of his own as Lampard was taken off for Demba Ba primarily to give a focal point to his side’s attack which had now been reduced to crosses and throw-ins targeting the heart of the PSG defense.

 

With Chelsea huffing and puffing in search of the ticket to salvation, PSG missed a glorious chance to kill the tie. Cabaye sent a raking 40-yard pass to Cavani but the Uruguayan failed to test Petr Cech and the miss would prove to be very costly. With three minutes remaining and Chelsea teetering on the edge, they got the all-important second and ironically it came courtesy of a striker. Cahill floated a ball into the PSG box and Christophe Jallet wasn’t able to clear the danger, the ball fell to Cesar Azpilicueta who’s strike from the edge of the box was poked in by Ba. On the sidelines, Mourinho turned the clock back and sprinted to the huddled players in celebration. At full-time Chelsea proved once again proved their powers of recovery and reminded everyone that counting them out would be at your peril.

 

Mourinho remains undefeated in Champions League quarterfinals but more importantly the Blues live to fight another day.

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