So we’re at that stage of the season where the Champions League returns and clubs have to juggle their European exploits and there challenge for success back home. For Chelsea this season, this is not a concern because we have been so bad in the Premier League, so we can focus mainly on success in Europe’s premier club competition.
I feared for our chances coming into this game given that we have been playing a near full strength side week in week out in domestic competitions in the last month, whereas PSG have been able to rest players because they are over 20 points clear at the top of Ligue 1. This wasn’t helped by our current injury problems, with Kurt Zouma picking up a long term injury and John Terry out in the short term with a knee injury. Seeing as this meant we had to make three changes in our back four in terms of positions, there was definitely a chance that we could have been out of the tie inside the first half.
In all fairness, the two goals that we conceded were not down to the defence and came from individual errors, one much more than the other. The first goal came from Zlatan Ibrahimovic, and I’m afraid it’s a blinding error by John Obi Mikel, who first brings down Lucas Moura when he doesn’t have to, and then turns his back on the free kick. I don’t care if you get hit in the face, when you get paid that much money and are supposed to care that much about the club, you have to be able to take a ball in the face. The way he turned away made the wall considerably smaller, and if he’d just stood up, the deflection would not have found the net.
I haven’t been convinced by Mikel for a number of years now, he isn’t as mobile as he needs to be, and his distribution is often very poor. Given what I have just said, it’s pretty ironic that it was him who grabbed the equaliser. To be fair he did atone for his error, and the away goal he scored could be crucial in three weeks time. It was fantastic work from Diego Costa to set up the chance, with his near post flick on taking three PSG defenders out of the game and giving Mikel an easy finish.
The second goal is an individual error from Thibaut Courtois, but less of an error than Mikel’s. It was a clever ball from Angel di Maria over the top of the defence to put Edinson Cavani in behind, but it did force him slightly wide of goal. Looking back, Courtois will probably realise that he shouldn’t come rushing out in the way he did. However it was a split second decision that he got wrong, and being that he is still only 23, he will learn from it in the future.
To be honest, it was probably our best defensive performance of the season, and it was just two momentary lapses in concentration that cost us. Baba Rahman put in his best showing in a Chelsea shirt, and showed how much better we can be when you play a left-footed player at left-back. I thought that Gary Cahill and Branislav Ivanovic were excellent, and both probably had their best game of the season.
Because of this, I’m quietly confident of going through to the quarter-finals because if we can cut out these defensive errors, we will go through. 2-1 is a difficult score line to lead by. Considering you’ve conceded an away goal, you want to sit back and defend it, but there are so many attacking players in that PSG side that they want to get forward and nick another. It is very much the sort of score line that means you can be indecisive in your overall aim, so Chelsea could take advantage. The tie is far from over.