Media narratives were exploded all over the place at the Parc des Princes last night as Paris Saint-Germain racked up a commanding 3-1 lead over Chelsea in the first leg of their Champions League quarter-final.
Zlatan vs Jose? BOOM! The Swede was subdued throughout before departing his stage clutching the back of his thigh, while Mourinho’s tactics were ineffective, leaving the Chelsea boss to spin a familiar line about a lack of strikers.
Hazard vs Jallet? BOOM! PSG’s supposedly suspect right-back kept his flank locked down for much of the match, forcing Hazard inside to look for space.
PSG’s superb midfield and Chelsea’s strong defence? BOOM! The former was uncharacteristically sloppy in possession, while the latter could perhaps have dealt with all three goals better than they did.
So it was left to two men so often on the periphery of things to write the headlines: Ezequiel Lavezzi’s, whose PSG career appeared to be dawdling towards an unsatisfactory and overweight climax before Christmas, was electric throughout, scoring the opening goal and going close on several other occasions. Then Javier Pastore, the forgotten big-money man, climbed off the bench to produce a moment of pure class in the dying seconds and put PSG in the box seat.
“The third goal was important,” said Laurent Blanc , showing his customary skill for stating the bleeding obvious.
“We made a very big second half and that’s given us an opportunity. Above all, we did not concede a lot of space in Chelsea. We made some technical errors after the opener – we got hustled by Chelsea – but after we found our game We know that the match at Stamford Bridge will be difficult, regardless of the result tonight.”
“[Chelsea defender Gary Cahill] says the third goal was sloppy. I say ridiculous,” raged Mourinho . “It’s not a goal, it’s a joke.”
That’s ok then, I’m sure UEFA will chalk it off as a late April Fool’s prank.
Mou added: ““It’s difficult for us to score goals. I’m not happy with my strikers’ performances and I have to try things [for the return leg].” Poor Jose, always battling the odds. I just wish someone would give him some money to sign some players .
Mourinho should be more concerned about how easily his team gave up the opening goal in the third minute. Blaise Matuidi’s cross was nodded down into his own box by John Terry, and Lavezzi did superbly well to control and, with the ball slight behind him, arrow a tremendous half-volley past Cech into the roof of the net. 1-0.
PSG then did their usual trick of sitting back, lighting up a cigar and assuming the job was done. But, even with nominal striker Andre Schurrle looking more awkward than PSG’s twitter bantz , Chelsea are a cut above your average Ligue 1 opponents, and they hassled and harried their way back into the match. Marco Verratti was particularly culpable as PSG continually gave the ball away, and with nothing sticking to Ibra up front, The Blues were able to mount attack after attack.
This eventually paid off in the 27th minute as Oscar surged through the middle, and was taken out by a lunging tackle from Thiago Silva. No doubt it was a penalty, and Eden Hazard converted with aplomb, sending Sirigu the wrong way. 1-1.
Hazard had briefly climbed out of Jallet’s pocket to net the penalty, and produced his only other moment of note shortly afterwards, a fantastic Van Basten-esque volley from a narrow angle which came back off the post with Sirigu beaten.
PSG needed the half-time whistle, and they came out after the break looking much more purposeful. Whether this was down to Chelsea sitting back and playing for a draw I don’t know, but for whatever reason it was mostly one-way traffic. Thiago Motta was particularly magnificent, pulling the strings in midfield and putting a stop to several promising attacks.
Lavezzi headed over from a good position before David Luiz’s own goal made it 2-1. Chelsea failed to deal with a wicked ball in from Lavezzi, and after Cech had come out and failed to gather, Luiz shinned it over the line from close range. 2-1.
Zlatan then had a goalbound shot blocked by Luiz, before his evening was curtailed prematurely by what looked like a hamstring injury: “He’ll be out for a few weeks,” said President Nasser after the game, though what he based this diagnosis on is unclear.
Anyway, Blanc sent on Lucas, who had a real impact with his direct running, before Pastore applied the coup de gras in stoppage time. Receiving the ball with his back to goal in the corner, he somehow turned, wriggled into the box, and held off a couple of defenders before slotting a shot in at Cech’s near post. Vintage El Flaco, 3-1.
We’re only at half-time in the tie of course, but if PSG can replicate their thoroughbred second half over 90 minutes at Stamford Bridge next Tuesday, it’s difficult to see a way back for the little horse. Bring it on.