|Jonathan Johnson Twitter: @Jon_LeGossip|
Chelsea head back to Stamford Bridge with the advantage after securing a somewhat fortuitous 1-1 draw against Paris Saint-Germain in the first leg of their UEFA Champions League last 16 clash on Tuesday.
Branislav Ivanovic opened the scoring for Jose Mourinho’s men nine minutes before half-time, but Edinson Cavani pulled the French champions level less than 10 minutes into the second half at Parc des Princes.
From that moment on, Les Parisiens had the upper hand, but Laurent Blanc’s men were unable to find a second and now could suffer in the second leg after their failure to avoid conceding an away goal.
There was no question that PSG were the better team for the majority of the game, but they came up against an in-form Thibaut Courtois in the French capital. The Ligue 1 outfit now face a tough task if they want to reach a third consecutive Champions League quarterfinal.
Here are five points that emerged from PSG’s 1-1 draw with Chelsea.
David Luiz in Defensive Midfield - Finally!
Six months after making his competitive debut for PSG, David Luiz was finally deployed in defensive midfield by coach Blanc. Although more by necessity rather than choice after Thiago Motta withdrew from the squad injured on the eve of the game, Le President’s decision to play the Brazilian there paid off.
Luiz produced one of his best performances so far for the French champions and - aside from a momentary lapse of concentration or perhaps confusion in the PSG back line - looked like a better fit in front of the defence than Motta has been for the majority of this season.
It was a solid performance and a source of encouragement moving forward, but the one question that can be asked of Blanc is why it took until Les Parisiens’ biggest fixture of the season to date for him to test the tactic.
Deploying Luiz in defensive midfield not only made the middle of the PSG team more dynamic than they have been at pretty much any other point this season, but it also allowed Marquinhos to occupy his preferred central defensive role. The young Brazilian fared well and presented Blanc with a more solid defensive partnership than the Luiz-Thiago Silva combination.
An Away Goal Could Cost PSG Once Again
PSG’s objective before the game was to avoid conceding an away goal again at all costs. Chelsea’s main aim pre-match was to sneak an away goal by all means necessary. Mourinho’s men, as they often do, managed to find a way through and it came from the most unlikely of sources.
Ivanovic being the man to put the finishing touch on a move to secure the vital away goal was perhaps not that surprising, particularly given his penchant for popping up with important goals when the Blues need them most, but the fact that it was John Terry providing the cross and Gary Cahill executing a deft flick to find the Serbian was an eyebrow raiser.
That moment of brilliant improvisation from an unexpected source was all it took to unlock an otherwise tight PSG back line. The French champions’ momentary panic could cost them dear as they now must travel to London next month, knowing that they absolutely have to score at least one goal.
However, in a way, perhaps that is what Blanc’s men need. Last season they led 3-1 at the halfway stage of the tie and they arrived at Stamford Bridge looking to keep it tight and avoid conceding. This time, they will have to attack from the off and this could actually favour the French giants if they have a number of players back from injury by then.
31% - Only 31% of the teams have managed to qualify after a 1-1 draw at home in the 1st leg of a knockout game in the CL. Bet.— OptaJean (@OptaJean) February 17, 2015
Cavani’s Continental Confidence
Much-maligned in Ligue 1 for not being effective enough, Cavani can do no wrong for PSG in the Champions League it seems.
The Uruguayan has scored six goals in seven games in this season’s edition of the competition and the feat means that only current teammate Zlatan Ibrahimovic and capital club legend George Weah have scored more in a single campaign.
Cavani put in a good performance in the 1-1 draw, going close in the first half with a header that was well saved by Courtois, as well as providing Blaise Matuidi with another excellent headed opportunity.
El Matador worked hard all game and deservedly found the back of the net from a brilliant Matuidi cross and can consider himself unlucky that he did not have a second when he wriggled through Chelsea’s back line and narrowly poked wide.
PSG are facing a tall order to overcome Chelsea in the second leg, but if they are to advance instead of Mourinho’s men, then Cavani will be crucial to their chances. With another goal, he can equal Weah’s record of seven Champions League goal in a single season, but he’d still need another three to draw level with Ibrahimovic’s 10 from last term.
105 - Edinson Cavani scores on average every 105 mins in the CL 14/15 and every 204 mins in Ligue 1. Schizophrenic. pic.twitter.com/soKzZneI5F— OptaJean (@OptaJean) February 18, 2015
Courtois was Chelsea’s Saviour
Had Chelsea not had Courtois in goal, the game would arguably have favoured PSG by the end of the 90 minutes. The Belgian giant made some sensational saves, as well as some equally important but more straightforward blocks, to keep Les Parisiens at bay.
There was some debate pre-match as to whether or not Courtois or Petr Cech would start, but Mourinho had clearly made the right choice - even by half time. The former Atletico Madrid man was often all that stood between a ropey Chelsea defence being exposed more than they already were for Cavani’s goal.
Courtois’ role in preventing PSG from scoring a quick-fire second through Lavezzi after the Uruguayan had netted the equaliser was important, while Cesar Azpilicueta was there to bail him out when El Pocho did put the ball past him.
7 - Branislav Ivanovic has scored 7 goals in the CL since 2009, more than any other defender. Giant.— OptaJean (@OptaJean) February 17, 2015
Parc des Princes Fear Factor
Although PSG now face a tough task to win the second leg of this tie away at Stamford Bridge, the Chelsea draw keeps Les Parisiens’ impressive unbeaten European home run alive at 33 matches - a run that dates back to a 2-4 home defeat to Hapoel Tel-Aviv in the 2006 UEFA Cup.
Despite falling behind on the night against Chelsea, Blanc’s men showed great character in the second half to produce a performance that the demanding home fans deemed acceptable for the occasion.
PSG 1-1 CHL (FT) - 33 consecutive European matches for PSG without losing at home. Tied with Bologna (since 2002) for longest ACTIVE steak— MisterChip (English) (@MisterChiping) February 17, 2015
The supporters played their role; whipping up a fervour at Parc des Princes that perhaps eclipses the atmospheres sampled in last season’s Chelsea clash and Barcelona the year before that.
Even if PSG do not go through after the second leg, one thing does remain true. Parc des Princes is a venue that other European sides fear coming to and will continue to do so as long as this fine record remains intact.
The chances are that it will still be in one piece come next year’s competition.