Paris | Uruguayan striker Edinson Cavani came in as a late substitute and scored a winner from an acute angle to give Paris Saint Germain a 2-1 victory over Chelsea in a UEFA Champions League last 16 match, here.
Although Chelsea lost the match, an away goal keeps them in the contest when the two teams meet at Stamford Bridge on March 9 for the return leg game, feels Blues coach Guus Hiddink. The defeat hurt us but the away goal gives us some hope, Hiddink said after the match.
Home team coach Blanc, though happy termed an away goal by Chelsea as the only regret in the match.
It is an eventful win for the French giants, who feel that it is their make-or-break year to assert continental supremacy, so necessary to make the club a bigger global brand.
Cavani, who replaced Lucas in the 73rd minute, had the winning strike to his credit in the 78th minute after the teams were on even keel at the half-time courtesy Zlatan Ibrahimovic (39th minute) and John Obi Mikel (45th).
It was Angel di Maria, who freed the striker on right side of the 18-yard box as he beat the defense with a sprint before finishing off with a powerful right-footer despite Thibaut Courtois narrowing the angle. This was after the PSG dominated the better part of the match and should have scored more goals.
PSG coach Laurent Blanc decided to start with Lucas in place of Cavani, who had a poor last game in Ligue 1 against Lille.
Lucas got the first crack at goal in the 3rd minute but Courtois saved the shot. The Belgian goalkeeper had a good time under Chelsea bar as the scoreline easily could have been 4-2 in favor of PSG.
But the man, who made the difference, was young Maro Verratti in the idfield. It was the 23-year-old Italian, who took control of the central midfield. He won a lot of balls as John Obi Mikel had a forgettable game despite scoring a goal. Along with Thiago Mota and Blaise Matuidi, he conjured a lot of moves with left full back Maxwell frequently going on overlaps.
For the first 20 minutes, Chelsea hardly could come into the opposition half. It was the 23rd minute that they could have scored when Abdul Baba Rahman kept a measured cross for Diego Costa, who ran around David Luiz to head but goalkeeper Kevin Trapp just about managed to tip it to the horizontal.
Ibrahimovic was having a quiet match but just like any No 10 would do found the net when it mattered the most. Obi Mikel had a mad two-minute spell in which everything he did went wrong. First, he brought Lucas down near penalty box to help PSG get a direct free-kick. Ibrahimovic took a low powerful shot that deflected off Obi Mikels feet to enter the net as Courtois was misled by the change of direction. The Nigerian made some amends when he latched onto a corner at the stroke of half-time to make it 1-1 for Chelsea. Cavanis position was something that had worried Blanc after the Lille match as he gave some indications to drop him from the line-up.
In fact Cavani was replaced by Lucas in the Ligue 1 game after his indifferent performance. But on Tuesday, he did give PSG enough reasons to smile as they will come hard at Chelsea in their away game at Stamford Bridge.
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