By: Sam Borden
The ball had barely settled in the back of the net, and Jose Mourinho, Chelsea’s unpredictable manager, was already on his way to the Paris St.-Germain bench. While the PSG players and coaches celebrated Javier Pastore’s last-minute goal, Mourinho somewhat bizarrely walked around shaking hands with the ecstatic home side, too.
Mourinho said later that he simply wanted to beat the traffic in the tunnel on the way back to the locker rooms; after all, he noted, the referee blew the final whistle seconds later. But in some ways, the strange gesture looked as if Mourinho was tacitly acknowledging the gravity of Pastore’s goal: After a 3-1 victory Wednesday in the first leg of this Champions League quarter-final, PSG is in prime position to eliminate Chelsea.
A one-goal deficit would have been manageable for Mourinho’s team in next week’s second leg. Two goals, however, may be too much to ask of a team that has struggled to identify which of its strikers — if any — can consistently produce.
“It is difficult for us to score goals,” Mourinho said afterward. “It is difficult to transform the half-chances into chances. And when you make the defensive mistake, you are in trouble.”
Zlatan to miss return
Chelsea’s best hope for a comeback? It may lie in the fate of PSG’s star, Zlatan Ibrahimovic, who was removed from the game after an hour with what appeared to be a hamstring injury. PSG’s president, Nasser al-Khelaifi, indicated that Ibrahimovic may be out for several weeks.
But Pastore, who came off the bench, showed PSG’s depth. His goal in the 94th minute was well-taken, though Mourinho and his players rued the ease with which he zipped around two Chelsea defenders and whipped a shot past goalkeeper Petr Cech at the near post.
“The third goal was a joke,” Mourinho said. “It was not a goal. It was a joke.”
Chelsea defender Gary Cahill added: “It was a horrible time to concede, a sloppy goal, which is unlike us. It’s a big blow.”
PSG got off to a sizzling start in the game, seizing a lead four minutes into the game when Ezequiel Lavezzi settled a weak clearance from Chelsea’s captain, John Terry. Without missing a beat, he rifled a stunning half-volley into the top corner of the net.
That early punch should have sent the home side flying, but PSG could not take advantage of Chelsea’s unorthodox lineup. Mourinho has made no secret of his displeasure with his strikers recently, so, in a typically Mourinho-style move, he played without one, opting to start the game with midfielder Andre Schurrle playing alone up front.
Ultimately, it was a series of mistakes from PSG that led to Chelsea’s equalizer. Ibrahimovic, who was largely invisible even before his injury, gave the ball away easily in midfield, and moments later Thiago Silva made a misguided challenge on Óscar just inside the penalty area. Eden Hazard coolly scored the penalty kick to give Chelsea a coveted away goal.
The Blues could have had a second before halftime — Hazard hit the post with an artful drive about five minutes before the interval. But PSG went ahead after the hour mark when Chelsea’s David Luiz turned the ball into his own net. The biggest mistake was when Luiz fouled Blaise Matudi to give PSG a free kick in the first place. After that, there was little Luiz could do once Lavezzi’s wickedly bending ball turned him around.