The PSG Report: Revisiting the second leg of Chelsea vs. PSG in the 2014-15 UEFA Champions League round of 16 

0
24
PSG’s Kylian Mbappe, center, and PSG’s Neymar, left, react after Leipzig’s Dominik Szoboszlai scoring his side’s second goal during the Group A Champion’s League soccer match between RB Leipzig and Paris Saint Germain at the Red Bull Arena in Leipzig, Germany, Wednesday, Nov. 3, 2021. AP Photo/Michael Sohn.

With the arrival of the international break, I thought it would be a good idea to revisit one of my favorite Paris Saint-Germain matches of all time, and the match which ultimately made me fall in love with “Les Parisiens:” Chelsea vs. PSG in the second leg of the 2014-15 UEFA Champions League round of 16.  

First, let’s go back to the 2014-15 Champions League group stage. PSG was in Group C, which included Spanish side FC Barcelona, Dutch side AFC Ajax and Greek side APOEL FC. The club of the capital had recently been acquired by Qatar Sports Investment, and was slowly but surely beginning to make a name for itself in Europe’s premier football tournament.  

Paris picked up an impressive 3-2 win against the Catalan giants in matchday two of the competition, and won five of their six total group stage matches. Its only loss came against Barcelona on the final matchday).  

The round of 16 draw set them up against London side Chelsea FC, who broke Parisian hearts in the quarterfinals of last year’s competition thanks to an 87’ winning goal by Demba Ba to advance Chelsea to the semifinals of the Champions League, where they’d be subsequently eliminated by Spanish side Atletico Madrid.  

Chelsea had the advantage going into the second leg of the round of 16. The Blues attained a 1-1 draw at the Parc des Princes, which gave them the advantage on aggregate due to away goals. Laurent Blanc’s Paris knew they had a tall task on their hands, and would have to attack from the start in order to reclaim the advantage from the men in blue.  

Chelsea were the better side throughout the first half, as they created a large amount of opportunities that unsettled the Parisian backline. Things only got worse for PSG in minute 31, as Zlatan Ibrahimovic received a red card for what the referee deemed to be a dangerous challenge on Oscar. Paris was now down to 10 men, with absolutely no momentum on their side.  

Chelsea’s Reece James, left, is challenged by Burnley’s Maxwel Cornet during the English Premier League soccer match between Chelsea and Burnley at the Stamford Bridge stadium in London, Saturday, Nov. 6, 2021. AP Photo/Frank Augstein.

The referee let the Parisians off the hook 10 minutes after, as a challenge by Edinson Cavani on Diego Costa in Paris’ own box should have led to a penalty for the hosts. However, the official saw nothing out of the ordinary and let play continue. This might have been a make-up call for his expulsion of Ibrahimovic, which many deem undeserved.  

The second half was more of the same for the Paris side that could not get anything going for them in the attack. In minute 58, PSG finally created their best opportunity of the match. Javier Pastore played a ball that broke the lines to find Cavani, who was through on goal. The Uruguayan rounded goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois, but hit the post to miss the empty net and keep Chelsea in the lead.  

This opportunity opened up the match for both sides, as they began to exchange blows with each other. It would be Chelsea who landed what they thought was the killer haymaker in minute 81, when Gary Cahill hit a deflected ball on the half volley to smash it past Salvatore Sirigu and the Blues up 2-1 on aggregate.  

PSG needed to find one goal in the remaining nine minutes in order to force extra time. It seemed highly unlikely that this goal would arrive, but then, four minutes later, center back David Luiz headed an Ezequiel Lavezzi corner into the top of the net to equalize the contest at two and force extra time.  

Chelsea’s Kai Havertz is helped to return to the field after a tackle during the English Premier League soccer match between Chelsea and Burnley at the Stamford Bridge stadium in London, Saturday, Nov. 6, 2021. AP Photo/Frank Augstein.

If you thought the drama stopped there, you’d be sorely mistaken. In minute 94, Thiago Silva went up for a header with Kurt Zouma and inexplicably had his hand pointed straight up toward the sky. The ball deflected off the Brazilian defender’s outstretched hand and Chelsea was awarded a penalty.  

Eden Hazard stepped up and coolly slotted it into the center of the net. It surely seemed as if there was no way back for Blanc’s men.  

However, the men in red simply would not concede defeat. Luiz stepped up to take a free kick in minute 101, which swerved and dipped to force a solid save out of the Belgium goalkeeper. Then, in minute 113, Courtois made a world class save to prevent Silva’s bullet header from finding the back of the net.  

Finally, the third time’s the charm for the French warriors. Thiago Motta drove in a cross to the far post, which was connected on by Silva. The center back’s header followed the trajectory of an arc as the ball dipped beyond the reach of Courtois to score the equalizer in the 114th minute and give Paris the 2-2 advantage on aggregate due to away goals.  

Jose Mourinho’s Chelsea side was deflated after this excellent header, and could not find a response in the remaining six minutes of the contest. As a result, PSG successfully avenged their defeat to Chelsea in last year’s competition, and advanced to the quarterfinals of the competition for a second consecutive year.  

It was the Brazilian center backs who ultimately won the game, as their never-say-die attitude kept PSG in the match even when it seemed as if it was all but lost. The performances by Silva and Luiz will forever remain etched in my memory, as they introduced me to a club who has heart, and who do not quit until the final whistle is blown.  

Leave a Reply