Chelsea 2 PSG 0: Five things we learnt, including Frank Lampard's light is fading and Jose Mourinho loves set-pieces
What did we discover from Chelsea's Champions League comeback against their French opponents
Wednesday 09 April 2014
Mourinho finds set pieces the route to success
Even here, in the final stages of the Champions League, teams sometimes just have to find a way. Chelsea could not match Paris Saint-Germain for attacking stardust from the start, never mind when Eden Hazard limped off after 18 minutes. But when the manager is the most glorious pragmatist in the game, the solution is never far away and it came from dead balls.
Chelsea threatened from corners and free-kicks more than anything else, Salvatore Sirigu first having to scramble to turn away Frank Lampard’s deflected effort before the first goal – a long throw from Branislav Ivanovic, a near-post flick and then André Schürrle pouncing on the second ball. It might not have been a goal to fit the stage, but it was demanded by the situation.
Lampard’s bright light may slowly be fading
This was Frank Lampard’s 50th appearance for Chelsea in the knockout stages of the Champions League, which is nearly as remarkable a record as any that the 35-year-old holds. But it did not feel on Tuesday night as if there will be very many more.
It is unlikely Lampard would have started had Ramires been available, and he was second best for most of the game in his 66 minutes on the pitch. Blaise Matuidi was too strong and sharp for him, Thiago Motta too canny. Lucas got Willian booked after skipping past Lampard, and the England man himself was carded for a cynical trip on the hero of the first match, Ezequiel Lavezzi.
Chelsea’s finest displays this season have come with Nemanja Matic in the team and he has the spark that Lampard, quite naturally, has lost. When Matic is available in the Champions League next season, Chelsea will be stronger.
Geordie connection makes a difference to both teams
Former Newcastle team-mates Yohan Cabaye and Demba Ba spent much of the time before kick-off – when they really should have been warming up – catching up on the halfway line. Both might have felt slightly hard done by not to be in their respective starting line-ups but both were called upon in the second half by their managers.
Cabaye was brought on to add some much needed experience – where 21-year-old Marco Verratti was struggling – but it was Ba, thrown on to be a target man up front, who made the difference at the end, clambering past Maxwell at the far post to knock the ball rather fortunately over Sirigu for the vital second goal.
Mourinho’s tactical nous befits his amazing record
There were times, with the clock ticking away and Paris threatening on the break, that Jose Mourinho’s remarkable European record felt under threat.
This was his eighth Champions League quarter-final. He had won the first seven but never gone into a second leg with a deficit like this. And yet there he was at the end, charging around as if buoyed by the thrill of his very first triumph.
If this felt like a personal victory for Mourinho, that is because it was. He did not allow his team to over- commit for the first hour, acknowledging PSG’s strength on the break, knowing if they were one goal away, he could add two more forwards and ride their luck. It paid off, and even after Ba’s goal, there was Mourinho, breaking up the bundle to give tactical instructions to his players. This was the complete performance.
Paris stars left waiting to join the European elite
This Paris Saint-Germain team is talked of in France as the best ever to grace Ligue 1, so much so that only European challenges are relevant to them any more.
They want to join the club football elite and now need a statement, the scalp of a big club to really prove their worth. But this was their second straight quarter-final exit, both on away goals after drawing 3-3.
They will be back again next time, but for now they are still waiting for their admission to the European big time.
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