PSG take option on semis berth

UEFA Champions League

By S. Willis

A superb solo goal from Javier Pastore clinched a hard-fought 3-1 win for PSG as they bested Chelsea to take the box seat for the return leg in London next Tuesday. Ezequiel Lavezzi, Eden Hazard and David Luiz (o.g.) also scored.

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

UEFA Champions League quarter-finals, first leg

Parc des Princes, Paris

 Paris Saint-Germain 3 - 1 Chelsea FC 

It was a battle royale at the Parc des Princes on Wednesday evening as the Ligue 1 and EPL leaders faced off, with Ezequiel Lavezzi claiming an excellent early opener for the hosts (4') before Eden Hazard levelled from the spot (27', pen.), but David Luiz's own-goal (61') paved the way Pastore's mazing run in the area - and his superb near-post finish - to turn the tie in PSG's favour.

Last-gasp special

Argentine midfielder Pastore may have been wanting for form and game time of late, but he look fleet-footed and fresh as he skinned no fewer than four Chelsea defenders on the right-hand side of the box, cutting inside and finishing superbly off Petr Cech at the near post to add some real weight to the French side's win.

Coming off a run of nine consecutive wins Paris had begun the game in confident mood and had Chelsea on the back foot in the early stages. Not unusual for Paris Saint-Germain, who are accustomed to bossing their league fixtures, but Argentine striker Ezequiel Lavezzi found the finish to make it count. After John Terry had cleared Blaise Matuidi's cross from the right, Lavezzi chested the ball down and pivoted on his right foot, slamming a left-footed shot into Cech's top-right-hand corner (4').

Hazard makes his mark

Chelsea were unfazed, however, and played their way into the match, hitting back before the half-hour mark through Eden Hazard. The former Lille prodigy made the most of PSG captain Thiago Silva's foul on compatriot Oscar in the area, sending Salvatore Sirigu the wrong way to level matters (27').

The equaliser propelled Chelsea back into the match and the Londoners took the upper hand as the first half played out. Eden Hazard came close to handing Chelsea the lead - and a precious second away goal - when his far-post volley smashed off the base of Sirigu's post (40'), but after Edinson Cavani had penalty claims waved away just before the break, the sides left the field still on level terms.

David Luiz's nightmare

The second half saw PSG come out swinging, with Zlatan Ibrahimovic playing a much bigger role for the hosts as they re-took the initiative. Blaise Matuidi began to make incursions forward, setting Lavezzi up for a powerful header that went agonisingly close (52') before drawing a foul from David Luiz just to the left of Chelsea area.

Chelsea boss José Mourinho may have been disappointed that the Brazil midfielder gave away an unnecessary foul so near the box, but characterised as 'ridiculous' Chelsea's defending as Luiz himself turned the resulting free-kick into Cech's net to hand the lead right back to PSG (61').

Ibrahimovic injured, Lucas steps up

Despite being back on top, PSG soon saw fate strike back as top scorer and assist provider Zlatan Ibrahimovic limped off injured (66'). However, PSG boss Laurent Blanc's opting to bring on the very attack-minded Brazilian Lucas in his place signalled that PSG weren't about to sit back and hold out for the 2-1 result.

And Lucas didn't fail to oblige, foreshadowing Pastore's triumphant strike with an explosive run through the centre of the park, using all his pace and dribbling magic before Cavani's uncharacteristically poor touch on the edge of the area scuppered the move (74').

Run somewhat ragged by Paris Saint-Germain's relentless possession game, Chelsea began to lose their shape as the second half played out, with Cavani going close from outside the area (84') and Thiago Motta - also set up by the excellent Lucas - menacing with his head (90'+1).

Pastore's game changer

However, just as it looked like Chelsea would leave Paris with a not-so-hard to surmount 2-1 deficit, Pastore - brought on by the canny Blanc for Lavezzi with just five minutes of regulation time to go - showed his absolute best to score perhaps the most important goal of his career in the biggest match of PSG's season.

Chelsea have turned around such a deficit before - beating Napoli 4-1 at Stamford Bridge after losing the first leg 3-1 - but Laurent Blanc and his charges will certainly head to London in six days' time with more than a little confidence of booking a place in the Champions League semi-finals for the first time since season 1994-95.


>> FIXTURES/RESULTS: Champions League quarter-finals

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