In typical Chelsea fashion, we refused to give in. We defied all the odds and the scepticism. We called upon the spirit of 2012 to produce a historic performance – we would not be denied, each individual display exuding sheer desire. Jose Mourinho’s touchline sprint, distinctly similar to his infamous 100m dash at Old Trafford in 2004, capped off a hugely memorable evening.
Paris Saint-Germain were incredibly confident. “God save the Queen and not Chelsea” they foolishly posted before kick-off. Earlier in the day, they provocatively posted “Chelsea, can you do this?” with Russell Crowe moronically holding up the PSG home shirt. “Who needs the Special One when you have the Only One?” said Zlatan Ibrahimovic. Cocky, yes. Funny, no – we had the last laugh.
Trailing 3-1 from a miserable first-leg, at least two goals were required for our progression into the semi-finals. We shrugged off the blow of Eden Hazard’s unfortunate calf problem to run ourselves into the ground in search of victory. His replacement, Andre Schurrle, epitomized the belief and desire, covering every blade of grass.
Petr Cech was superb in goal, producing a string of fine stops to thwart PSG, most notably from Maxwell in the dying seconds. He had a resilient defensive unit in front of him. Branislav Ivanovic and Cesar Azpilicueta kept a vibrant PSG side at bay during the opening exchanges, while Gary Cahill and John Terry managed Edinson Cavani excellently.
David Luiz produced his most impressive performance in a Chelsea shirt when most needed, frequently dispossessing the French champions and driving us forward in search of the decisive second goal. Willian and Oscar were tremendously lively and energetic in the final third.
Despite the lethal counter-attacking threat posed by Lucas Moura, Ezequiel Lavezzi and Cavani, Ramires’s suspension and the ineligibility of Nemanja Matic and Mohamed Salah, our confidence was high. The match began in cautious fashion with both sides aware of the implications, positive or negative, of scoring or conceding. As Cavani strode forward, Azpilicueta was across to dispossess him. Ashley Cole provides more of an attacking threat but Azpilicueta’s solidity is wonderful.
Schurrle’s impact was almost immediate. He took his goal superbly, sweeping in Ivanovic’s long throw-in. He ran towards the centre-circle, hurriedly pushing for the restart of the match. Game on.
The chance to take control of the tie before the interval was wasted. From Lampard’s corner, Cahill’s composure deserted him at the critical moment, striking the ball into the Shed End on the half-volley.
Mourinho had asked for “patience” from his players. Schurrle, with a thunderous effort, rocked the crossbar before Oscar struck it again, this time leaving it shaking for a good few seconds from a cracking free-kick.
Demba Ba, as he informed ITV, had been deprived of opportunities to show his abilities to Mourinho. His cameo substitute appearances have been impressive and have resulted in goals, with the 4-0 thrashing of Tottenham an example. Here, as he replaced Lampard, he was bright, using his physical presence to flick a header towards Schurrle, whose subsequent shot was handled well by PSG keeper Salvatore Sirigu.
Then came the chance for Laurent Blanc’s men to break Chelsea hearts. Cahill and Terry, in employing an inevitable high-line, had managed Cavani well and their subduing of him in both legs shouldn’t be disregarded. Yet, Cavani, from Cabaye’s delicious long-range pass, got in-behind them and fired wildly over the bar. For his £55m price-tag, he should have scored.
But Ba did. Azpilicueta fired across the box and credit to him, Ba had been lurking behind Maxwell to guide home despite the attentions of the PSG full-back. Unlike his jaunt at Old Trafford ten years ago, Mourinho claimed he had not been celebrating the winning goal, rather making tactical tweaks. Maxwell closed in on Cech’s goal in the dying seconds but we held out. We are in the semi-finals.
Petr Cech – 9/10 His handling from set-pieces was excellent. On an evening in which the slightest error could have huge ramifications, he excelled. His save in the dying seconds, just as referee Pedro Procenca signalled full-time, from Maxwell was spectacular. Thibaut Courtois will have to fight for the number one jersey – Cech is yet a formidable keeper.
Branislav Ivanovic – 6/10 He endured difficult moments trying to stifle the threat posed by Lavezzi but when he departed with twenty minutes remaining, Ivanovic strode forward much more frequently to provide another attacking option as the Blues searched for the decisive goal. Will be missed in the first-leg of the semi-final.
Gary Cahill – 8/10 Fantastic alongside John Terry. Managed Cavani well and was driving forward to spark offensive passages of play. Should have scored during the first-half also.
John Terry – 7/10 Did not pose an attacking threat like his centre-half colleague did but succeeded in his main objective – denying PSG an away goal.
Cesar Azpilicueta – 7/10 His bout with Lucas Moura was billed as key and Azpilicueta fared decently. Solid as always. Reliable.
David Luiz – 8/10 Produced a superbly disciplined performance. As well as thwarting PSG’s lethal counter-attacking prowess, Luiz was constantly regaining possession. Big performance for the big game.
Frank Lampard – 7/10 Rolled back the years to produce an inspired performance. He surged forward frequently and with his yellow card taken into account, he was replaced for Ba, the eventual hero.
Willian – 9/10 His energy, desire and quality was pivotal. He kept moves ticking as the clock wore down and was a general nuisance to PSG.
Oscar – 7/10 Lively. Unfortunate not to have scored with a spectacular free-kick.
Eden Hazard – N/A Hardly had any time in which to impose himself on the game. Subbed after 15 minutes with a calf injury.
Samuel Eto’o – 6/10 Returned rather unexpectedly to the starting line-up after a hamstring injury but was on the fringes of the action.
Andre Schürrle – 8/10 Introduced after 15 minutes as Hazard hobbled off. Many thought it was a big blow but yet, Schurrle was fantastic. Took his goal well and unfortunate not to have scored a second.
Demba Ba – 8/10 Despite being used sparingly by Mourinho, he took his rare opportunity spectacularly. His goal came from his brilliant anticipation and his finish was composed.
Fernando Torres– 7/10 Under-fire striker came on with ten minutes remaining and was effective. Tracked back, dispossessed Maxwell late on and displayed some good footwork.
Our dramatic progression under Mourinho is there for all to admire. From being out of the Premier League title race in December and facing the likes of Rubin Kazan this time last year to remaining genuine contenders for the league crown and preparing to face either Real Madrid, Atletico Madrid or Bayern Munich – Jose has previous with each of those sides. Whoever we draw, it will be highly intriguing.