Paris Saint-Germain will take a 2-1 lead into the second leg of their Champions League first knockout round tie with Chelsea. Goals from Zlatan Ibrahimović and Edinson Cavani came on either side of a John Obi Mikel equalizer at the Parc des Princes, after an impressively proactive display from the French outfit. However, Chelsea's away goal ensures that though it's the Parisians with the advantage at the halfway point, this tie is still far from over.
The hosts set the tone for the match early on, and dominated possession in the opening exchanges. A long-distance effort from Marco Verratti swerved low and stung the palms of Thibaut Courtois, before Lucas Moura and Ibrahimović both went close from distance. It was entirely one-way traffic.
It took until midway through the first period before Chelsea registered a serious attempt on goal, though, to their credit, it was the best chance of the match. A cross from Baba Rahman was met by a free Diego Costa, though his powerful header was tipped onto the crossbar courtesy of the impressive reactions of Kevin Trapp.
Chelsea were growing in confidence, and began to apply sustained pressure for the first time in the match. But that only served to give PSG the opportunity to strike on the counter-attack, and they almost took the lead just past the half-hour, when an Ángel Di María cross was headed into the ground by Ibrahimović.
The hosts did eventually break the deadlock with just over five minutes of the half remaining, though did so in rather fortuitous fashion. A low Ibrahimović free-kick bounced off the shins of John Obi Mikel, diverting the ball away from Courtois and into the other side of the goal.
However, the Parisians' celebrations were short lived. On the stroke of halftime a corner fell conveniently for Mikel to poke home from the edge of the six-yard box, giving Chelsea an away goals advantage.
They nearly went two up early in the second half, though Trapp sped off his line to thwart Eden Hazard on the break. PSG offered a swift response through Ibrahimović, though this time his deflected effort diverted the ball straight at Courtois, rather than straight into the back of the net. Before long the hosts were back in the ascendancy, though initially without reward: Lucas and Di María both forced Trapp into excellent saves, and Blaise Matuidi had a shot charged down from point-blank range.
However, they continued banging on the door, and eventually it opened. With just over 10 minutes remaining, substitute Cavani put the Parisians back in front, slotting the ball through the legs of Courtois and into the back of the net from a tight angle after an excellent chipped ball from Di María. He almost added a third in stoppage time, though Courtois was on hand to make a crucial save.
Chelsea could muster no response, and PSG hung on for a narrow victory.
Paris Saint-Germain: Kevin Trapp; Maxwell, David Luiz, Thiago Silva, Marquinhos; Blaise Matuidi (Pastore 81'), Thiago Motta, Marco Verratti (Rabiot 81'); Ángel Di María, Zlatan Ibrahimović (Cavani 74'), Lucas Moura.
Goals: Ibrahimović (39'), Cavani (78').
Chelsea: Thibaut Courtois; Baba Rahman, Branislav Ivanović, Gary Cahill, César Azpilicueta; John Obi Mikel, Cesc Fàbregas; Eden Hazard (Oscar 71'), Willian, Pedro; Diego Costa.
Goals: Mikel (45+1').
1. Paris Saint-Germain were surprisingly proactive
Much like their opponents, there's no doubt this PSG team excel on the counter-attack. Yet Laurent Blanc's team, perhaps feeling the pressure to take the game to their opponents with a stadium of expectant fans watching on, looked to boss possession from the first whistle. Seemingly unconcerned with being hit on the break, their fullbacks surged forward on the overlap, with Maxwell in particular turning in an industrious performance down the left side. Marquinhos was a little quieter down the right, though given he's a centre-back by trade, perhaps that's no surprise. Don't be surprised to see PSG play a little more pragmatically at Stamford Bridge.
2. PSG's centre-backs turned in strong performances
The attacking intent of PSG's full-backs and midfielders meant that their centre-back pairing had to be at their very best. Fortunately for Laurent Blanc, they were. David Luiz turned in a typical all-action performance at the back, though rarely put a foot wrong; meanwhile, his compatriot Thiago Silva was just as solid. If it wasn't for their very impressive individual performances, Chelsea may have had more joy in attack.
3. Chelsea struggled to effectively counter-attack
Despite his failure in the early part of this season, José Mourinho doubtless turned this Chelsea team into a very dangerous counter-attacking unit last year. Though unfortunately it's a quality that they seem to have lost. The pace and skill of Pedro and Eden Hazard should have meant that they relished playing against a PSG team as attack-minded as this one, though they struggled to ever get their counter-attack functioning. It certainly didn't help that they struggled to string together more than a couple of passes for what seemed to be interminable stretches of the match. Suffice to say, Guus Hiddink is yet to get the best from the players at his disposal.