Chelsea and Jose Mourinho dare to dream of European glory once more after overturning a two-goal deficit to advance to the Champions League semi-finals at the expense of Paris St Germain.
3-3 agg, Chelsea win on away goals
Scorers: Chelsea - Schurrle (32), Ba (87)
Mourinho raced down the touchline in celebration of substitute Demba Ba’s 87th-minute goal, which secured the 2012 winners a 2-0 win and a place in the last four for a seventh time in 11 years courtesy of Eden Hazard’s away goal in the first leg.
It was a scene reminiscent of Mourinho’s sprint at Old Trafford en route to his first European Cup success with Porto in 2004.
The trophy eluded the Portuguese during his first spell at Stamford Bridge, but he won it again in 2010 with Inter Milan and has another shot at glory four years on.
Chelsea trailed 3-1 after the first leg, but were unbeaten since September at home and had kept eight successive clean sheets prior to the match.
Mourinho believed in his side and, when Andre Schurrle swept in after 32 minutes, the Blues needed one more goal and to stretch that defensive mean-streak by one more game.
Against a PSG strikeforce vaunted even without the injured Zlatan Ibrahimovic that was no easy task, but the defence held their side of the bargain as the attackers tried to fulfil theirs.
Mourinho had gambled on the fitness of big-game player Samuel Eto’o, but was not banking on losing Hazard to injury after 18 minutes.
Schurrle, the Belgian’s replacement, was anonymous in a ‘false nine’ role in the first leg, but thrived here, hitting the bar early in the second half.
Oscar struck the frame of the goal with a free-kick moments later and PSG had chances as Chelsea surged forward looking for the decisive goal.
It looked like it would prove elusive until Cesar Azpilicueta’s drive into the area fell for Ba to turn the ball into the net and spark delirious celebrations, led by Mourinho.
Only two sides in Champions League history had overturned two-goal deficits, with Chelsea involved in both contests, losing to Barcelona in 2000 and beating Napoli 12 years later en route to European glory.
Mourinho called on his side to repeat the comeback of two years earlier against a PSG side which included Edinson Cavani and Ezequiel Lavezzi, then of Napoli.
PSG had lost just once by two clear goals in their previous 110 fixtures and boss Laurent Blanc hoped his side could impose their philosophy on Chelsea to show flair as well as grit.
Mourinho, meanwhile, told his players to enjoy the occasion, to play with smiles on their faces, insisting the result in Paris was more due to his side’s failures than PSG’s prowess.
The Portuguese dressed down in a tracksuit, but meant business, hurrying a ball boy operating near his dugout.
Few Chelsea players seemed to enjoy a pulsating and disjointed opening.
Oscar found some joy down the left, so, too, did Eto’o, who had a shot deflected over before the striker showed his sharpness after a three-game absence with a hamstring injury by pressing Salvatore Sirigu as the goalkeeper dealt with a back-pass, only to commit a foul.
The left wing is usually Hazard’s domain, but much to the concern of the raucous home faithful, the Belgian was subdued and soon limped off. The man coveted by PSG shook hands with Blanc on his departure.
The Blues had set-piece opportunities.
A Frank Lampard free-kick kicked up wickedly off the wall, forcing Sirigu to turn the ball round the post.
Sirigu was beaten soon afterwards as his static defence watched David Luiz flick on Branislav Ivanovic’s long throw for Schurrle to sweep the ball into the bottom corner.
Schurrle appealed in vain for a penalty moments later when collided with Marco Verratti.
Cavani and Lampard were booked in quick succession by referee Pedro Proenca – the man in the middle when the Blues won the 2012 European Cup – as tempers simmered.
Chelsea maintained the intensity after the restart and went close when Oscar’s incisive pass found Willian.
He pulled the ball back for Schurrle to strike a fierce drive which rebounded off the bar.
Lucas Moura fouled Eto’o on the left edge of the box for a free-kick in a dangerous position and Oscar’s curling strike also hit the woodwork.
PSG’s forays forward were ever more infrequent but danger lurked.
Ivanovic was adjudged to have fouled Blaise Matuidi on the left edge of the Chelsea box, earning a booking which rules him out of their next European match.
Lavezzi’s inswinging free-kick was clawed round the post by Petr Cech.
Ba replaced Frank Lampard with 24 minutes to go and flicked on for Schurrle, who shot straight at Sirigu.
As Chelsea poured forwards, PSG had chances.
The best fell for Cavani, who fired over after controlling Yohan Cabaye’s 50-yard pass.
Still searching a second, the much-maligned Fernando Torres was thrown into the fray, but it was Ba who netted the decisive strike before Chelsea withstood a late bombardment to advance at the expense of the French champions.