Chelsea 2 PSG 2 comment: Paris prove they are one of Europe's best

PSG played with the courage and resilience that had always looked beyond them

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The Independent Football

One side at Stamford Bridge, with their backs to the wall and everything at stake, delivered a performance of tenacity and competitive spirit, on the very edge of what was acceptable within the rules. For once it was not Jose Mourinho’s Chelsea who delivered all of this, but Laurent Blanc’s Paris Saint Germain, performing in the image of their opponents.

This was the result that Paris Saint Germain had been waiting for since the Qatari takeover in 2011, but it was also the performance. PSG have rarely ever given any indication that they could play like this, with so much passion, patience, and willingness to fight for one another. They out-fought Chelsea for 120 minutes, which is difficult enough, but they played for a whole 90 minutes with 10 men after Zlatan Ibrahimovic’s unfortunate early dismissal.

Paris Saint Germain have always looked like less than the sum of the parts, lacking the unity and the intensity which is the sign of a team which has been forged in the weekly battle of a difficult domestic competition. They have suffered, as many big-money teams do, from having too many stars, taking too many touches and slowing the game down. That is what has happened to Real Madrid this season, and, on a smaller scale, to Manchester United.

Tonight, though, in the hardest possible circumstances, PSG played with the courage and resilience that had always looked beyond them. Their €100million centre-back pair of David Luiz and Thiago Silva was the rock on which the display was based, holding off Diego Costa through any means necessary, and then scoring the two late headers which knocked Chelsea out of Europe.

 

As good as this display was, it could not have come against anyone better than Chelsea. Ever since the Qatari takeover of PSG in 2011 they have been operating under the shadow of what Chelsea have done since Roman Abramovich took over. Laurent Blanc referred to it at his press conference at Stamford Bridge on Monday night. “Chelsea took a while to get where they are, and invested heavily,” he said. “It takes time to become one of the top five or six sides in Europe. That is the process PSG have embarked upon.”

For that process to be completed, for PSG to be considered a full member of the European elite, they needed to knock one of them out of the Champions League. This was their third attempt, and they finally did it. Two years ago PSG took a good swing at Barcelona, but were narrowly beaten. Last year, they beat Chelsea 3-1 at the Parc des Princes but were beaten in the dying seconds here by Demba Ba. Here, though, they stayed in the game, shut down the favourites, and found a way to go through.

In that sense it was a very Mourinho display, reminiscent of his Internazionale team and their route to becoming European champions in 2010, beating Pep Guardiola’s Barcelona over two legs, playing most of the second leg in the Nou Camp with 10 men. PSG have tried to recruit Mourinho as manager twice before but here, for once, they did not need him.

The surprise was that Chelsea did not play anything like a Mourinho team would be expected to. There was little control of the game, even against 10 men, and, curiously enough, no obvious plan. They seemed reluctant to go after PSG, to take the initiative and take the game away from them. Cesc Fabregas, not for the first time, lacked the decisive touch in crucial moments, while Diego Costa was playing his opposition and not the game. Only Eden Hazard seemed to have the class and focus for the occasion and it was not enough.

No-one expected it to be PSG who produced the dogged, canny team performance of the evening but so they did. Mourinho will be left wondering how to take this team to the next level, and how he was beaten as his own game.

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