Chelsea’s 2-2 draw with PSG saw them knocked out of the Champions League in the round of 16 with a 3-3 aggregate scoreline sending Laurent Blanc’s team through on the away-goals rule after extra time.
Gary Cahill looked to have put Chelsea through when he scored late on but David Luiz’s header took the game into extra time.
Thiago Silva’s handball gave Eden Hazard the chance to restore the advantage from the penalty spot but the Brazilian defender made amends with the winning header.
Here we pick out six of the many talking points to emerge from a dramatic game at Stamford Bridge…
Gary Neville called it an ugly game and it was easy to see why. For some, the gamesmanship had begun well before kick off with Jose Mourinho’s claim that PSG were the most aggressive team his Chelsea side had faced all season. The sentiment continued into the contest with the unedifying sight of Chelsea players haranguing the referee to send off Zlatan Ibrahimovic. “Maybe what he’s said before in the press conferences gets inside the referee’s head,” said Jamie Carragher by way of explaining the red-card decision. “His words have worked.” Graeme Souness added: “It saddens me, and makes me angry at the same time, that gamesmanship is deciding these big games.” The atmosphere never really improved and cast something of a shadow over the contest.
Help for referees?
The reaction of the Chelsea players to Ibrahimovic’s challenge had the Sky Sports viewers on the edge of their seat waiting for the replay. Many would have suspected it was a red-card offence but a closer look was needed. Of course, that was an opportunity denied referee Bjorn Kuipers. “We have the luxury of the replay,” said Thierry Henry at the interval, while claiming that his central role in events meant Kuipers assumed the role of man of the match. PSG provided some candidates of their own as the match wore on but the point stands - the technology exists to provide video support for the referee so why not use it? It’s difficult to believe it would slow things up too much given the delays already in the game and a high-profile game like this will only intensify the debate.
“He flatters to deceive against English teams,” said Jamie Carragher beforehand and a record of three goals in 18 games would suggest there is some truth in that. But while it’s rarely been his night against Premier League opposition, Ibrahimovic could be at least partially absolved for the fact that this record continued on Wednesday. “He was very unfortunate,” added Carragher of the decision to send off the Swede for his abortive lunge on Oscar. “It’s not a red card.” At the age of 33, Ibrahimovic won’t have too many more opportunities to ram the criticism down the throats of his detractors but the resigned manner in which he took the decision was to be commended. He had every right to be frustrated but could yet get the chance to make amends.
Costa out of control?
As often seems to be the case, much of the controversy seemed to surround Diego Costa with the Chelsea centre-forward continuing his flair for off-the-ball drama. First there was the sight of David Luiz on the deck clutching his ribs and before long it was Costa himself floored by a clash with the PSG defender. There was a wink for the Chelsea bench soon afterwards suggesting the striker was in control of his emotions but a wild foul on Thiago Silva in the second half was followed by a push on Marquinhos that would surely have seen Costa sent off if spotted by the referee. This is a player who operates on the edge but this was not a performance to inspire trust that Costa knows where those boundaries are.
Are Chelsea tired?
“They’re gone here, Chelsea,” said Neville during the second half. “There’s nothing in them.” It was a strangely insipid display by the Premier League leaders given what was at stake and the performance will have raised concerns about mental and physical tiredness creeping in. Although boasting a healthy lead at the top of the table and having clinched the Capital One Cup earlier this month, Chelsea have not clicked into top gear for some time and it seems that they may be struggling to hit those early season heights. Are Mourinho’s men set to limp over the line rather than finish the season with a flourish?
English teams struggling
With Arsenal and Manchester City both facing first-leg deficits, the prospect of no English clubs in the quarter-finals of the Champions League looms large. That would be a second time in three seasons and mean that only three of the last 32 places in the last-eight of the competition over the past four seasons have been filled by Premier League sides. With Everton also the only Europa League representatives remaining it marks a worrying trend with English teams unable to compete with their continental counterparts despite the great financial strength of the Premier League. Is a winter break needed? Should the style of play change? Questions are sure to be asked but answers are harder to find.