Stubborn resistance and a Branislav Ivanovic header earned Chelsea a 1-1 draw in the Champions League last-16 first leg with Paris St Germain at Parc des Princes last night.
Scorers: Paris St-Germain - Cavani (54’); Chelsea - Ivanovic (36’)
Jose Mourinho’s men are well placed to advance to the quarter-finals after Ivanovic netted a vital away goal, although Edinson Cavani equalised and PSG showed enough for Chelsea to be wary in the second leg on 11 March.
With striker Diego Costa restored following his disputed three-match ban for stamping on Liverpool’s Emre Can and returns for goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois, defender Gary Cahill and playmaker Cesc Fabregas, Chelsea were at full strength against an injury-depleted PSG, who started with former Chelsea defender David Luiz in midfield.
Chelsea’s bus became stuck entering the stadium and Zlatan Ibrahimovic caused the visitors all kinds of difficulties once the match began. Courtois made three saves from headers in the first half, the pick from Cavani, before Ivanovic’s header against the run of play.
Cavani equalised after losing Cahill to meet Blaise Matuidi’s cross and both the Uruguay striker and Ibrahimovic had chances to double PSG’s lead.
The Swede was denied by Courtois in stoppage time to leave Chelsea in control of the tie heading to Stamford Bridge.
The episode with the bus led to jokes Chelsea would “park” theirs and deploy defensive tactics. The Blues, wearing yellow, harassed and harangued their opponents, but still PSG found gaps and Courtois was forced to justify his selection with two saves in quick succession.
Cavani chipped the ball for the onrushing Matuidi, whose powerful header was repelled by a strong Courtois hand.
Matuidi’s cross was then met by Ibrahimovic, climbing high above John Terry, but the header went into the ground, losing its power and Courtois saved.
PSG came close again and Courtois denied Cavani when the Uruguay striker lost marker Nemanja Matic to meet Ezequiel Lavezzi’s corner at the near post.
Chelsea struck after Eden Hazard drew a foul from Ibrahimovic. The initial free-kick was half-cleared and the ball found its way to Terry on the left. His cross was flicked on by Cahill and an unmarked Ivanovic struck.
Ibrahimovic blasted a free-kick over in first-half stoppage time after Luiz appeared to improve the angle by sweeping up the referee’s vanishing spray and shifting it a yard inside.
Chelsea’s resistance was broken in the 54th minute when Luiz spread the ball to the left and Matuidi crossed for Cavani, who had stolen away from Cahill and headed down and in.
PSG found another way through, but Courtois saved from Ibrahimovic and the follow-up shot from Lavezzi was blocked by Cesar Azpilicueta. PSG still had a chance of a winner only for Courtois to save a late Ibrahimovic header.
PSG: Sirigu, van der Wiel, Marquinhos, Thiago Silva, Maxwell, Verratti, Luiz, Matuidi, Lavezzi (Pastore 81), Ibrahimovic, Cavani. Subs Not Used: Douchez, Camara, Bahebeck, Digne, Rabiot, Kimpembe.
Chelsea: Courtois, Ivanovic, Cahill, Terry, Azpilicueta, Ramires, Matic, Willian (Cuadrado 79), Fabregas (Oscar 83), Hazard, Costa (Remy 82). Subs Not Used: Cech, Luis, Zouma, Drogba.
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