PARIS: On a good night for London in Paris, this was a case of backs for the goal, then backs to the wall for Chelsea. John Terry and Gary Cahill set up Branislav Ivanovic for a vital away goal, and Chelsea's defence then played resiliently, resisting PS-G's second-half pressure barring an equalizing header from Edinson Cavani. They were, though, deeply grateful to the outstanding Thibaut Courtois for a string of saves.
PS-G managed 16 attempts on goals, with six on target, and they were thwarted constantly by Courtois, whose late save from Zlatan Ibrahimovic's header in particular ensured the tie stays very much in Chelsea's favour. Cahill was caught out for Cavani's goal but made some important clearances. Terry, Ivanovic and Cesar Azpilicueta also helped keep PS-G at bay.
Ibrahimovic had a few moments of class but the real star act in the PS-G team was Blaise Matuidi, who was magnificent in creating and running and tackling back. David Luiz grew into his first game in midfield for PS-G, who paid Chelsea pounds 50m for the Brazilian last summer, but the French side still resemble a collection of gifted individuals rather than the sort of robust unit shaped by Jose Mourinho.
Chelsea had known the second half would bring an onslaught, inevitably so with players of the quality of Cavani in opposition, but they also knew they had that first-half goal from Ivanovic. On three occasions in three separate competitions in his last five games, Ivanovic has now contributed significant goals.
The Serb headed the winner in the Capital One Cup semi-final second leg against Liverpool on Jan 27 to send Chelsea to Wembley, cutting his foot in the process so badly that Mourinho said his blood-filled boot should be placed in the club museum to show young players the sacrifices made by the best.
On Feb 7, Ivanovic's goal secured a 2-1 defeat of Aston Villa, strengthening Chelsea's position at the top of the Premier League. With 10 minutes of the first half remaining here, Ivanovic struck again, his 30th for the club since arriving from Lokomotiv Moscow for pounds 9?million in January 2008.
The sight of three defenders involved in the goal, John Terry and Gary Cahill teeing up Ivanovic, was a riposte to those who suggested Chelsea might park the bus. Chelsea's coach had suffered a scrape arriving at the ground, becoming briefly wedged, leading to endless jokes among onlookers about Mourinho's anticipated tactics, yet Chelsea arrived in search of an away goal.
When Ivanovic scored, Diego Costa was following up, eventually picking the ball out of the net. Costa had swaggered into Parc des Princes, returning from suspension that meant he missed three domestic games, stepping on the pitch beautifully prepared by Jonathan Calderwood, the former Villa groundsman.
Costa had been hunting his first goal in the Champions League for Chelsea.
Greeted by chants of "Diego, Diego" from the Chelsea fans, Costa still found himself running into the thick blue line of PSG's defence. When Costa drifted left, Gregory van der Wiel and Ezequiel Lavezzi were quick to close him down. When Costa went right, Maxwell beat him in the air.
Chelsea were patient, playing a possession game, not hurrying forward, building through Cesc Fabregas and Eden Hazard, who kept being hounded by the hosts. Marco Verratti, David Luiz and the excellent Blaise Matuidi sought to place a stranglehold on central midfield. There was no shortage of midfield talent looking on from the chic seats, including David Beckham, Dunga and Michel Platini.
It was extended sparring, plenty of probing combinations but no real punches being landed. PSG went closest first. Zlatan Ibrahimovic played the ball left to Cavani, whose cross was headed by Matuidi, but Thibaut Courtois punched the danger clear. Moments later, Matuidi was out on the left, delivering a ball destined for Ibrahimovic. The Swede has laboured against English defences in the past, barring that bout of pyrotechnics against England in Stockholm in 2012 and the odd game against Arsenal. He managed to outmuscle Terry to reach Matuidi's cross, heading down, but again Courtois was alert.
Ibrahimovic, seeking his first goal in seven attempts against a Mourinho side, was beginning to alarm Chelsea, elegantly turning Cahill. The Swede then had a shot blocked by Ramires before being fouled by Costa. Chelsea's No?19 was in a strange mood, also catching Thiago Silva in the air and being warned by Cuneyt Cakir, the Turkish referee.
The game flowed from end to end. Hazard had a cross athletically intercepted by Salvatore Sirigu. Cahill intervened to stop a ball from Van der Wiel from reaching Ibrahimovic. When Verratti fouled Hazard, Fabregas curled over the free-kick from the left but Sirigu punched the ball clear. Then it was Courtois' turn to demonstrate his reflexes, saving at the near-post after Cavani had met a Lavezzi corner.
Then came that sweet moment of devastating attacking by Chelsea's defenders 10 minutes from the break. Terry clipped the ball across from the left and Cahill turned potential into potency with the deftest of flicks. Ivanovic, easily losing David Luiz, met the ball with a well-directed header steered past Sirigu.
The half finished with Luiz rubbing out the vanishing spray marking where Ibrahimovic should have been taking a free-kick from after Nemanja Matic fouled Verratti. The Brazilian then wiped the residual foam from his hand on the turf to the left of the ball, giving Ibrahimovic a marginally better angle. No joy. Ibrahimovic drove the ball over.
Yet there is such talent in this team of Laurent Blanc's that they soon equalised. Matuidi's cross from the left was perfect, catching out Cahill, the ball carrying over the England international and being headed past Courtois by Cavani. Cahill has been embarrassed by the Uruguayan before, not least at the World Cup when the centre-half failed to close down Cavani who crossed for Luis Suarez's first.
Chelsea were protecting their goal well, Cahill beating Ivanovic to the ball, Ramires steaming in to clear a loose ball and Cahill then cleared as Matuidi charged through. Matic then tracked back to see off a run from the substitute Javier Pastore. Just before the final whistle, Courtois made his final superb save, pushing away Ibrahimovic's header.