After a fiery, slow-burner of a game at the Parc des Princes on Tuesday, Chelsea and Paris Saint-Germain dished out a tactical treat as the clubs are locked at 1-1 after a tense first leg of their UEFA Champions League last 16 encounter.
[ RELATED: PSG, Chelsea draw 1-1 ]
We learned that PSG are up for a fight, while Chelsea escaped the Parisian cauldron on level pegging this year, as opposed to trailing 3-1 after the first leg of their UCL quarterfinal last season.
Here’s three other things we learned, as the two teams are evenly poised heading into the second leg.
Half fit Costa, Fabregas hurt Chelsea
Diego Costa had not played since Jan. 27. Cesc Fabregas has only played 20 minutes since Jan. 27. Both of those facts were abundantly clear on Tuesday night as Chelsea’s two key players could not get out of second gear.
Fabregas was booked with 20 minutes to go as his timing into challenges was late all night, his energy levels were lagging and you could see exactly why he was only passed fit on the day of the game. As for Costa, he was bullied by Thiago Silva and David Luiz and hardly had a kick all night. He was clattered into when aerial balls came his way and the Spanish international gave the ball away on multiple occasions as he had a night to forget. Costa was subbed out of the match in the 82nd minute, while Fabregas was replaced by Oscar in the 83rd minute. To their credit the duo struggled on and did a job for the team but Costa and Fabregas were far from their scintillating best. If they are fully fit and raring to go in three weeks time for the second leg, they will take Chelsea to the next level and PSG will struggle to deal with them.
There’s plenty of life left in PSG
Let’s not forget that this was a PSG side who were also banged up and had five to six key players missing. Yes, they are in a tough spot heading into the second leg at Stamford Bridge and must score at least one goal to advance, but with the return game taking place on March 11, all of their walking wound are likely to return.
Thiago Motta, Lucas Moura, Serge Aurier and Yohan Cabaye were all missing on Tuesday while Marquinhos, Blaise Matuidi and Javier Pastore were far from fully fit, but Laurent Blanc’s side put in a gritty display to thwart Chelsea’s threat on the break and looked more dangerous as the game wore on. After the first leg of their quarterfinal last season, PSG looked home and hosed after a 3-1 win. Despite going to the Bridge and knowing that this time around they must score to wipe out Chelsea’s precious away goal, PSG will have gained plenty of belief from a vibrant display. Chelsea skipper John Terry shared his relief and hailed PSG after the game as Jose Mourinho’s boys were more than happy with a 1-1 draw in a hostile stadium where Les Parisiens have not lost a European game since 2006.
“They are a very good side, especially going forward,” Terry said. “They keep the ball very well and obviously David [Luiz], his range of passes is very good. Thibaut Courtois pulled off some great saves and we go away with a happy draw. Last year we made it very difficult for ourselves but we are in a lot better position now.”
Ivanovic is basically a striker playing right back
Branislav Ivanovic has scored three goals in his last five matches for Chelsea… he’s a right back. On the Blues’ only goal of the night three of their back four combined as Terry whipped in a hopeful cross which Gary Cahill flicked on spectacularly to the back post where the predatory Ivanovic was waiting to cushion home a header back across the goal.
The Serbian international has now scored 30 goals for Chelsea and 51 in his entire career. The fact that he does not take free kicks or penalty kicks makes those numbers even more remarkable. Recently he has scored clutch goals to send Chelsea to the League Cup final and a late winner at Aston Villa, plus his latest effort against PSG. What Ivanovic does superbly is find space in the box, as he always seems to pop up in the right positions and time his runs to perfection. Of course that’s only half the battle, as he still has to keep his composure and bury chances but his ability to hang in the air and strike a ball with power helps him out in and around the box. Ivanovic’s away goal in Paris could prove to be vitally important when all is said and done at the end of this intriguing last 16 match-up.