Zlatan Ibrahimovic signalled the end of the road for Chelsea with a Champions League masterclass at Stamford Bridge last night, when injuries to Diego Costa and Eden Hazard threatened to have ramifications beyond this one-sided tie.
Ibrahimovic, the 34-year-old forward who may yet be tempted to come to the Premier League this summer, created the opener for Adrien Rabiot and the scored the decisive second as Paris Saint-Germain eliminated Chelsea at the last 16 stage for a second successive season.
But while the Swede was majestic, Chelsea’s star players were scythed down by injury, with Costa and Hazard limping off in the second half, seemingly now doubtful for the FA Cup sixth-round tie at Everton on Saturday.
Defeat at Goodison Park, following this ultimately comprehensive 4-2 aggregate loss, would bring the curtain down on Chelsea’s season with two months left to run ahead of major rebuilding work this summer.
Since defeating Chelsea at Parc des Princes three weeks ago, PSG have suffered what, for them at least, has been something of a wobble, with Laurent Blanc’s team going into this second leg having collected just one point from their last two league games.
Blanc did not field his strongest XI in the defeat at Lyons or the home draw against Montpellier, but nonetheless, any failure to win for successive games in Ligue 1 is as close to a form slump as PSG have endured for quite some time.
They remain 23 points clear at the top table, however, and that cushion enabled Blanc to rest his key players in preparation for the trip to Stamford Bridge. His counterpart, Guus Hiddink, enjoyed no such luxury and was again forced to do without his injured captain, John Terry, for a game which required all of Chelsea’s leading lights to shine if they were to have any hope of overturning their first-leg deficit.
Chelsea player ratings vs PSG
Chelsea player ratings vs PSG
1/11 Courtois 5 out of 10
Overall, the goalkeeper had an OK game and did well in one instance to put off Ibrahimovic from taking a shot at goal. However, he endured some nervy moments, which will lead to questions of his form this term.
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2/11 Azpilicueta 3 out of 10
Will feel disappointed to have first allowed Rabiot to get past him and tap in the opener before completely losing Di Maria in the build-up to Ibrahimovic's goal. A game to forget for the Spaniard.
3/11 Cahill 5 out of 10
Was dragged out of position to deal with the pace and threat of PSG's forwards in a few instances, but worked well alongside Ivanovic
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4/11 Ivanovic 6 out of 10
Was caught out of position for Rabiot's goal, but made a last-gasp clearance to deny Di Maria in the fifth minute before making several other key blocks later in the game.
5/11 Kenedy 4 out of 10
Left Ibrahimovic with too much space and time to send in his cross to Rabiot, who subsequently scored. He did well going forwards but struggled defensively in an unfamiliar position.
6/11 Mikel 5 out of 10
Made some key tackles when needed to stop some of PSG's attacks - one of which resulted in a yellow card - while linking up well with his teammates. But could have done more to stop the ball that found its way to Di Maria in the build-up to PSG's winner.
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7/11 Fabregas 5 out of 10
Booked for a first-half foul on Motta, the Spaniard had a few good moments in attack but could not dictate the pace of the game.
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8/11 Pedro 6 out of 10
Superbly helped create Costa's goal after linking up with Willian while he impressed several times going forward but also worked hard to track back and defend too.
9/11 Willian 7 out of 10
Began the move that led to Costa's goal after winning the ball off Motta, and was generally impressive. He remains Chelsea's stand-out performer of the season even if he couldn't get on the scoresheet due to Trapp's heroics in goal.
10/11 Hazard 5 out of 10
Started the game off well - testing Trapp on a few occasions, but ultimately failed to dominate Chelsea's attacking play. Was booed off by a section of the home fans in the second half.
11/11 Costa 8 out of 10
With Chelsea trailing 1-0, the striker remained calm and composed to level the score with a fine effort in the 26th minute. Was a constant menace for PSG's defence and could have gotten more goals but saw his game cut short through injury.
The Premier League champions certainly began brightly, with Costa forcing the first save of the game from Kevin Trapp on three minutes when his drag-back on the edge of the PSG penalty area preceded a left-foot shot from 20 yards.
It was an early example of Costa’s desire to make a difference, with the former Atletico Madrid forward clearly determined to leave his mark on this tie for the right reasons.
But while Costa looked sharp – he ditched his face mask after nine minutes as if to prove his readiness to lead the fight – PSG’s front three of Ibrahimovic, Angel Di Maria and Lucas Moura were like wasps buzzing around the Chelsea penalty area and their movement and understanding were a threat from the off.
Moura, who rejected a lucrative offer from Manchester United in the summer of 2012 to sign for PSG, was allowed to run across the Chelsea 18-yard box before teeing up Di Maria for a clear chance early on, but the winger’s right-foot shot was blocked on the line by Branislav Ivanovic.
Di Maria then saw a left-foot effort blocked by Gary Cahill before top-quality play between the Argentine and Ibrahimovic opened up the Chelsea rearguard to enable Rabiot to score the opener on 16 minutes.
It was a sublime pass by Di Maria to Ibrahimovic, but the Swede was given too much room by the dozing Cahill and he was able to run into space before delivering a perfect ball for Rabiot to guide home at the far post.
PSG may have it easy at times in their domestic league, but Rabiot’s goal was proof enough that Blanc’s team still possess world-class quality. It was a deserved opener for PSG, whose control of possession was impressive against Chelsea’s more frantic approach, but the home side were able to draw level on 27 minutes, when Costa scored following careless play by Di Maria in the centre of the pitch.
The Argentine, still the British record signing following his disastrous £59.7m move to United last season, was dispossessed by Pedro before the ball dropped to Willian. Spotting Costa’s run, Willian released the forward, who turned Thiago Silva before scoring with a low strike past Trapp.
Costa was a constant menace and the Spain forward almost created a second in first-half stoppage time when his shot was fumbled by Trapp, only for Pedro to fail to convert the loose ball.
Despite claiming a foothold in the tie, largely through Costa’s efforts, the threat of a PSG away goal hung heavy over Chelsea at the start of the second half.
Hiddink’s men needed a second, but another PSG goal would leave Chelsea having to score a further three times and the French champions cleverly turned the screw on the home team by retaining possession and attempting to strike on the break.
Rabiot was at the heart of the visitors’ game plan, with the languid midfielder effortlessly spraying the ball around from the centre of the pitch with incredible economy and accuracy. Chelsea struggled to land a blow, with Willian’s energy their best outlet, but Hiddink’s team lacked the snap and crackle of PSG.
And Chelsea’s hopes of clawing themselves back into the tie were dealt a blow on the hour when Costa, appearing to have pulled a calf muscle, limped off to be replaced by Bertrand Traoré.
Without their talisman, Chelsea now faced an even more difficult challenge than when they started.
PSG began toying with Chelsea, waiting to land the killer blow, and it was delivered on 66 minutes when Ibrahimovic scored his 50th European goal.
Thiago Motta’s pass out wide to Di Maria instigated the move, but the winger’s cross was powerful and precise, leaving Ibrahimovic to guide the ball home from six yards.
The old man of PSG switched off the lights for Chelsea, who appeared a very old and ordinary team against the rising force from Paris.