A match that was expected to be tough, competitive and intense lived up to expectations, as Chelsea and PSG fought to the finish to decide who will progress to the last 4 of the UEFA Champions League. The first leg saw PSG dominate at home and win the game by 3 goals to 1. The onus was on Chelsea and Jose Mourinho to turn the tie on its head at Stamford Bridge.
Stamford Bridge saw a terrific atmosphere, with the home crowd willing their players on, hoping and expecting an important victory. PSG and Blanc came in with an advantage but it seemed as if they were there to avoid defeat by 2 goals, rather than beat Chelsea and drive home their advantage. The cautious approach possibly led to their downfall.
Chelsea 2-0 Paris Saint-Germain
Chelsea: Cech; Ivanovic; Cahill; Terry; Azpilicueta; Lampard (Ba, 66); Luiz; Willian; Oscar (Torres, 81); Hazard (Schurrle, 18); Eto’o.
PSG: Sirigu; Jallet; Alex; Thiago Silva; Maxwell; Thiago Motta; Veratti (Cabaye, 55); Matuidi; Lucas Moura (Marquinhos, 85); Lavezzi (Pastore, 73); Cavani.
Chelsea playing early passes
PSG came into the match with a 2 goal advantage and were quite happy to sit back, invite Chelsea onto them, and then hit the Blues on the break. Often, the Parisians had 11 men behind the ball. They were fairly happy to sit deep. The ambition was to play on the counter, as Chelsea, chasing a 2 goal win, had to attack.
PSG couldn’t get the job done, largely because of Jose’s tactics. In order to find the space behind and in front of the defence, in the first half, Luiz was sitting just off the defence, waiting to pick the ball up from his centre backs, and play it forward. Lampard was allowed to venture forward into the midfield areas to try and get the ball in an advanced position. But Chelsea were struggling to find space for all their stars, due to the crowded nature of the PSG half. A large portion of the match, 30% was played in the PSG final third. Therefore, in order to find space, Chelsea needed to play the ball early, and quickly. The direct style of football was what Chelsea employed, and their quest to play this way was aided by the injury to Hazard, with Schurrle supplementing the effort well.
As you can see in the image above, a number of long passes were attempted by the home side in the first half. Aside from playing it early, one notices that a lot of these long passes were played out to the flanks. With PSG trying to reduce the space available to the opposition, Chelsea had to find the space on the field, and used the width of Stamford Bridge very well. A lot of these long cross field passes was preceded by a few short passes in a slightly congested flank. This pattern drew PSG pressure, and left the other flank devoid of defensive cover.
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It was also noted by a lot of people that Chelsea started the game very slowly. While part of this might have been down to some nerves at the start of such a big game, it was also done to draw PSG out of their shells. The low tempo passing at the back attracted PSG pressure, and brought their forwards out to press the Chelsea defenders. This movement from the PSG strikers created a gap between them and the midfield, allowing Luiz and Lampard to get on the ball and move their team forward.
Reversing PSG’s midfield dominance
Last week in Paris, PSG managed to dominate their opponents and won by a fairly comfortable margin largely due to their midfield play. The energetic Matuidi supplemented the elegance of Veratti and Motta to stop Chelsea and allow their team to dictate proceedings. This week though, as the Parisians came to the Bridge, Jose had a game plan ready for them.
As mentioned above, the longer passing and the movement of Lampard into higher areas meant that the PSG midfield dropped a little deeper along with their defence to eliminate space that the Blues may have found. To add to this, their forwards were drawn forward quite often by the tempting pace at which the Chelsea defenders played their passes, leaving an amount of space in midfield for Luiz and Lampard. It also meant that the PSG midfielders were always reaching forward to stop the Chelsea players playing, automatically putting them at a slight disadvantage.
In terms of going forward, the PSG duo of Motta and Veratti didn’t have the same influence as they did in Paris. The Chelsea side put forward on the night hardly gave them any time on the ball to effect their magical play. They were closed down very quickly and very aggressively when they got on the ball. The Chelsea attackers like Willian and Schurrle got narrow while defending in order to stop them playing. This aggression could be seen with Chelsea winning the ball off Veratti and creating a chance for themselves. This chance ended with Schurrle slamming the ball onto the cross bar.
Effectively, this left space for the PSG full backs to get forward and play on the ball, but this was a concession Chelsea were willing to make to stop Motta and Veratti.
Chelsea take risks to win
Chelsea came into the second half chasing a goal to secure passage into the semi finals. While they did well going forward, hitting the cross bar twice in quick succession, Jose needed to up the ante in order to score the crucial second goal. In order to do so, Mourinho took a few risks. Firstly, he took Lampard off to bring on Demba Ba. This meant adding a forward player, and taking a midfielder off. He didn’t compensate by dropping Oscar deep, or playing Eto’o out wide. In effect, it meant that only David Luiz was left in midfield, and PSG had the chance to gain a stranglehold in this zone. It meant that they were forced even deeper, and basically got the ball into midfield to play it behind the Chelsea defence to the pacy Cavani. They created a few chances in this way, and had Cavani taken them, PSG would have been through, but in the end the risk paid off for Chelsea.
In the image above, you can see that a large number of the long passes that PSG attempted were from the midfield, very close to the half line. They were finding space in this region because of the reduction in personnel that Mourinho effected.
As you can see in the image above, the introduction of Ba and later Torres forced PSG to keep men back, but it also reduced the numbers Chelsea had in midfield. Due the fact that their own midfielders were tied down by Chelsea’s attacking players, the full backs were able to venture out into these open spaces in midfield, and play passes to the likes of Cavani.
Jose stretched it even more a little later, when he took Oscar off for Torres. The presence of 3 out and out strikers confined PSG to playing very deep, and forced a lot of players into the penalty area. This created the opportunity for Chelsea to cause deflections while attacking, and the goal eventually came from such a set of deflections.
Where does this leave them?
In a very intense tie, Chelsea managed to scrape through by the skin of their teeth with a late goal from Demba Ba. In truth, they were well prepared, and looked good value to go through, especially on the night, as they timed their assault to perfection. PSG will be very disappointed to not be in the semi finals, especially after their performance in the first leg. If anything, they probably have their own lack of initiative to blame. The only real chances that they created came when Chelsea conceded the midfield to them, and with a side like that, it was a shame to see such a performance. Mourinho has every right to be pleased with himself and his side, as his risk paid off very well on the night. Mourinho gambled and got his side forward, as he has done at times in the past on big occasions, and once again, he goes home with the win.
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