Javier Pastore’s third suggests landmark moment for the “new” PSG
It was in the Paris side’s powers of recovery that Laurent Blanc will take heart
Paris St Germain’s Javier Pastore (centre) celebrates with team-mates after scoring that vital third goal.
The headline that screamed across the first spread in yesterday’s edition of l’Equipe served as a reminder that the capital expected. “PARIS, premier grand defi” it declared, the first big challenge ahead for the team assembled by Qatari billions and virtually untouchable at the top of Ligue 1.
Yet thrashing Sochaux or Nantes is one thing, as is thumping a Bayer Leverkusen or an Olympiakos. This was Chelsea, a club who have secured European silverware in each of the last two seasons, a team whose pedigree at this level now feels established.
It was a challenge into which they tore with relish.
This tie may not yet be claimed, with Tuesday’s rematch at Stamford Bridge still offering the Londoners some hope of recovery, but PSG will travel across the Channel feeling as if they belong on this lofty stage.
A victory born of a second-half revival just as Chelsea, so canny for much of the opening period, had threatened to take hold of the tie has granted them the advantage and the Doha-backed “project” feels slightly more persuasive.
A year ago Carlo Ancelotti’s team had been edged out on away goals at this stage by Barcelona, their displays drawing praise but not progress. This time around they are ahead.
There were reality checks, too, the most significant arguably the sight of Zlatan Ibrahimovic limping away clutching his right hamstring. If scans confirm serious damage he will be absent on Tuesday and Marco Verratti will also need checking after retiring disconsolately 15 minutes from the end.
There was also the manner in which Chelsea rallied from that limp opening few minutes to impose their own qualities on the contest when lesser teams may have been blown away.
Yet Jose Mourinho will be anxious at the prospect of having to recover a two-goal deficit. Those glitzier names who remain fit, healthy and available in PSG’s ranks will be salivating at the prospect of the return, where the hosts will be depleted by the loss of the suspended Ramires. The French will feel stronger for this display.
The noise bellowed by those in the stands in the wake of Javier Pastore’s stoppage-time third suggested this was a landmark moment for the “new” PSG.
Chelsea were streetwise in the aftermath of falling behind for the first time to Ezequiel Lavezzi. PSG had started so furiously that, when the visitors resisted, some in their number appeared rather flummoxed. Verratti faded in the face of Ramires’ aggressive running and David Luiz’s presence.
With the Brazilian midfielder and his compatriot, Willian, snapping into him, he rather shrank. Even Blaise Matuidi’s eager running was eclipsed for a while – he would not be quelled forever, and was back to his bustling best after the interval – as all the hosts’ initial composure drained once it was clear Chelsea were not prepared to wilt.
Christophe Jallet, who would not have featured had Gregory van der Wiel been fit, felt vulnerable at right-back as Eden Hazard grew into the contest.
The Belgian had already drawn his side level from the penalty spot when, five minutes before the interval, he belted Willian’s centre on to the far post.
Yet it was in PSG’s powers of recovery that Laurent Blanc will take heart.