In a famous night of European football at Stamford Bridge, The Blues made it to yet another Champions League semi-final.
In the battle of Oligarch vs Sheikh , The former won.
It was an incredible team effort, every player and the manager contributed to an outstanding performance. The steel, passion and determination on display quickly bought back memories of the 2012 trophy winning campaign.
Jose Mourinho had a vintage night. The Chelsea manager threw caution to the wind with still a third of the game to play, switching to two strikers by substituting Super Frank for the eventual match-winner Demba Ba . He then doubled that bet with 10 minutes to play by bringing on Fernando Torres, meaning 3 strikers on the pitch. Willian and Schurrle supported them, as Jose went route 1, which left David Luis as the sole midfielder. I felt that Luis deserved the man-of -the match award for defending his territory as well as being the fulcrum for most of Chelsea’s attacks.
The game was played in an electric atmosphere. The decibel levels of the crowd were so high , that when the winning goal was scored it shattered the trophy cabinet glass at the Emirates , halfway across London. But thankfully nothing was looted!
PSG started the game as the steadier team. Chelsea certainly looked a little nervous in the opening couple of rounds. Everyone knew that an early French goal could kill the tie. Even without Ibrahimovich, PSG still had a formidable front line. Lucas, Lavezzi and Cavani all looked capable of spoiling the fun.
Cavani, a potential Chelsea target, was given his chance to lead the attack, instead of his usual second fiddle to Ibra. In truth he didn’t take advantage of this shop window opportunity. He missed a couple a real chances, and Roman could be seen putting his check book back in his pocket for the moment.
In the 17th minute Chelsea’s luck took a turn for the worse. Eden Hazard had to leave the game following a hefty challenge from old boy Alex. Andre Schurrle proved an ample replacement. The German kept the French side “occupied” with his trickery and incredible work rate. Chelsea had now settled and were controlling the game.
Schurrle got his reward on 31 minutes. David Luis back -headed from a corner, the ball fell to the feet of Schurrle on the 6 yard line, he finished first time. Sirigu, the PSG keeper , was wrong footed and just watched as the ball flew low into his left corner.
Suddenly the nerves were gone from both fans and players alike. If anything Chelsea had PSG on the ropes and Laurent Blanc’s team were lucky to only be one down at the break. Gary Cahill snatched at a chance from a set piece that could easily have seen The Blues a couple up.
PSG were the quicker out the traps at the beginning of the second half too. Although it didn’t last long and the Chelsea back 4 plus Cech looked rock solid.
The next 10 minutes certainly had the home supporters wondering if it was going to be one of those nights. Chelsea hit the bar twice in quick succession. Firstly Oscar from a superb dipping free kick, then Schurrle from a ferocious drive on the edge of the box after Willian had set him up perfectly. There was a danger that frustration could have crept in.
This is maybe what Mourinho wanted to avoid and therefore radically changed his teams approach. He went to the long ball game, with Ba providing the air superiority to effect this transition. It worked. PSG were suddenly up against the “Crazy Gang” . Terry, Cahill and Luis pumped ball after ball into the opposition box from halfway. The ghost of Vinney Jones was seen by the 5th Official.
Torres came on to join in the fun. In fairness to him he made a couple of great defensive tackles, Jose made sure he felt appreciated.
On 86 minutes the improbable became reality. Demba Ba with more of a scrambled than poached finish, scored the required 2nd goal. Mayhem set it. Jose Mourinho sprinted down the touch-line like a middle-aged man with BPH heading to the mensroom after 8 pints of Guinness.
He joined the celebratory huddle by the corner flag, it was as if we had won the World Cup!……. It gave us all a look at the type of team spirit that Jose helps create in the dressing room. Eon’s away from Rafa’s reign of last season.
PSG certainly gave their all in the last 5 minutes. Cech was needed one more time, stopping a curling Marquinhos effort at the near post. But the Blues made it to the Final whistle and into the Semis they marched.
Certainly a performance for the ages, I’m sure Gary Neville is a fan again.
Unfortunately for him, tonight’s victory will reduce United’s chances against Bayern tomorrow. The likelihood of both Premiership teams making it to the Final Four looked slim after the first legs and you could have got pretty large odds on only one. Anyway let’s hope the Red Devils also do the premiership proud, maybe setting up a revenge match for Moscow 2008.