Thursday, March 10th, 2016

PSG send scratchy Chelsea out of Champions League, while Benfica broke Zenit’s hearts in Russia

Mizgan Masani | March 10, 2016 5:25 pm Print


Zlatan Ibrahimović

Zlatan Ibrahimović

A late surge by Benfica at Zenit earned them a dramatic 2-1 away win on the night and 3-1 aggregate win sending them to the Champions League quarterfinals. Benfica, leading 1-0 from home leg fielded a makeshift defence which was eventually broken down by Zenit in the 69th minute through Brazilian Hulk.

With Zenit pressing for the second, Benfica equalised through Gaitan in the 85th minute when a Jimenez drive struck the crossbar and was headed home from the rebound by Argentine Gaitan.
Then substitute Talisca scored from virtually the last kick of the game to seal the deal on the night and kept Zenit waiting for their first ever quarterfinal berth in the Champions League, it was Benfica’s first quarterfinal berth since the 2012 season.

The first hour or so was a cagey affair with both teams struggling to really set the tempo, Benfica nearly snatched an away goal very early when Jonas’s curling free-kick was expertly tipped over the bar by Zenit keeper Lodgyin.

Just on the hour mark, Zenit manager Andre Villas-Boas made a double change and immediately the home side looked very threatening on the ball. They went ahead when Yuri Zhirkov broke from that left hand side and crossed in towards Hulk to head home.

Benfica was then denied by a brilliant stop by Lodgyin, the Portuguese club then started to turn on the screws but on the Zenit almost got the second when Dzyuba ran through the Benfica defence only for his shot to be blocked the defender Ederson. Then in the 85th minute Gaitan scored via a rebound and it looked like it was enough for Benfica to go through but Gaitan had other ideas when he burst through the Zenit defence only to get a lucky ricochet and Talisca pounced home from close range.

The Zenit hearts were broken as this was their golden opportunity for them to reach the last 8 for the first time, on the other hand, Benfica showed grit and character to go through to the last 8.
In Stamford Bridge, Paris Saint Germain knocked the English Champions Chelsea out of the Champions League for the second successive season to reach the quarterfinals to a celebratory chorus La Marseillaise at the away end of Stamford Bridge.

Laurent Blanc’s men were far from a smooth, high pressing and swift-passing team but had enough individual personnel to come good when it mattered in the game. Talking about individual personnel, it was a great night for Zlatan Ibrahimović as he assisted and scored on goal to put the tie beyond Chelsea’s reach. The Swede forgot all the bad memories he had last season here when he was sent off half an hour into the game.

It was said that Ibrahimović never plays his best when it comes to playing against English opponents, but he answered many of his critics as he was instrumental in what was in the end a comfortable night for the French Champions.

Chelsea put in a spirited effort but to be honest was not enough for the might of PSG. It was 1-1 in the second with game delicately poised for a tight finish, Diego Costa got injured and was substituted and a little knock to Hazard made things worse for the Blues and they never looked smooth enough, defence was pierced far too easily many a times and in the end scoreline shows us the deserved winner.

It was in the 16th minute when the first punch was delivered by PSG at the home of Chelsea, di Maria played Ibrahimović on the right hand side, young Chelsea left-back Kenedy was left deserting his post, Ivanovic failed to track the run of Swede Zlatan who played in a simple far post ball to Rabiot to finish from close range.

A 3-1 aggregate lead and PSG started to make this night a stress-free one by knocking the ball with confidence and menace. Then suddenly in the 27th minute, di Maria was caught on possession by Pedro who ran through the defence as PSG looked vulnerable, Spaniard picked out Costa who turned Thiago Silva one way and drove past PSG keeper Trapp to make it 1-1 on the night and open up many hopes again.

Unfortunately, in the hour mark Costa’s tendon problems aggravated again and he was forced to go off only to be subbed by Bertrand Traore. The game was still in the balance with a slight advantage for PSG, but in the 67th minute, di Maria showed some good wide play skills when Thiago Motta’s ball found him unmarked as Chelsea right-back Azpilicueta was caught napping. The Argentine puts in a low drilled cross which was volleyed home by none other than Zlatan Ibrahimović.

That goal made it 4-2 on the aggregate for PSG and now Chelsea needed 3 in 20 minutes to go through, they actually failed to score even one of them as the game dulled out for the final phases. A deserved victory for the reigning French Champions and are through to the last 8 of the Champions League for the third consecutive time.