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Champions League: Ibra Stars As PSG Ease Past Chelsea

ibra-celebratesLed by a brilliant performance by Zlatan Ibrahimović, PSG knocked Chelsea out of the Champions League in the last 16 for the second year in a row.

Beaten 2-1 in Paris three weeks ago, Chelsea began determined to wipe out that deficit as soon as possible, Kevin Trapp springing to his left to parry Diego Costa’s effort in the third minute. Paris, however, were equally enterprising early on, Lucas wriggling through the midfield and playing in Ángel Di María; the shot beat Thibaut Courtois but Branislav Ivanović slid in to clear.

Ibrahimović then had two strikes ruled out for offside, but Chelsea failed to heed the warning and fell further behind on aggregate in the 16th minute. Di María did the damage, setting Ibrahimović away down the right, and the Swede’s adroit low cross was turned in by Rabiot at the far post.

Chelsea rallied strongly and were level on the night 11 minutes later. Willian and Eden Hazard swapped passes before the Brazilian slipped a ball through to Costa; Chelsea’s No19 turned past Marquinhos and fired beyond Trapp.

Buoyed, Chelsea attempted to push back their visitors, David Luiz producing a fine block from a Costa effort early in the second period – yet their hopes suffered a major blow on the hour as Costa limped off. Paris swiftly capitalised, Di María evading the Chelsea defence on the left and crossing for Ibrahimović to volley in from close range.

That left Chelsea needing three goals to rescue the tie, and that never looked a likely prospect. Paris held on in some comfort to reach a fourth quarter-final in as many years.

Key player: Zlatan Ibrahimović (PSG)
An initial tendency to stray into offside positions should not have fooled his markers. Even aged 34, the Swede can summon amazing strength and control, and his tactical awareness and appreciation of space and time meant that Chelsea could not relax when the ball came anywhere near him. The way he set up the opener was pure class and he deserved nothing less than to be the man who wrapped up the aggregate success with the second goal.

Di María’s enduring class
There were many who wondered whether Ángel Di María was a busted flush after his Manchester United misery, unable to perform in the harsher climes of northern Europe. The theory never did hold much credibility and with every dazzling display in this season’s competition, the Argentinian puts further distance between his current persona and the withdrawn, hesitant figure who departed from Old Trafford, his reputation having taken a considerable downturn. Laurent Blanc knew exactly what he was bringing to his club, however, and has been handsomely repaid.

End of the road for Chelsea
The sight of Diego Costa hobbling off early in the second half was not a good portent for Chelsea’s hopes of turning round the aggregate scores – yet another reminder of the difficulties they have encountered this term. With a new manager waiting to take over and a squad overhaul on the cards, opportunity only remains with the FA Cup to salvage something from a poor campaign. For most it will be a relief when the curtain comes down and they can consign it to history.

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