Lethal Cavani sinks Chelsea

Paris Saint-Germain substitute striker Edinson Cavani fires the ball past Chelsea goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois to score the winner in the Uefa Champions League last-16 clash at the Parc des Princes in Paris on Tuesday night. Uruguayan striker Edinson Cavani scored a later winner as Paris Saint-Germain drew first blood in the Champions League last-16 with a 2-1 victory over Chelsea on Tuesday night. The London club, though, will be delighted to have at least scored an away goal through Nigerian John Obi Mikel in the last-16 first leg at the Parc des Princes in Paris in the knockout stage. It will give Guus Hiddink’s side a fair opportunity to advance to the quarter-final from the second leg at Stamford Bridge on March 9. The Parisians dominated the opening exchanges, with midfielder Lucas Moura and teammate Marco Verratti going close in the first 10 minutes as Laurent Blanc’s outfit fired in shots from all over the place. Star front-man Zlatan Ibrahimovic was a constant threat for the Chelsea defence with his sharp movement and reading of the game, with the Swede finding space for a free header half-an-hour into the game, but it went straight into the ground and bounced over Chelsea goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois just beyond the half-hour mark.

 Ten minutes earlier, Ghanaian midfielder Baba Rahman created a fantastic opening for Chelsea with a lovely left-footed chip which was connected by Diego Costa with a powerful header that looked like it was a certain goal. But German goalkeeper Kevin Trapp, while moving to his left, stretched out a strong right hand for an excellent save. Then came the moment of truth, and it was Mikel who was the villain in the piece. Moura had darted past him seven minutes before halftime, and he fouled the Brazilian close to the Chelsea box. But up stepped “Ibracadabra” Ibrahimovic to rifle home a free kick from the left-side of centre as the Chelsea wall split – the ball, inevitably, ricocheting off Mikel on the edge of it. The 28-year-old Nigerian superstar soon had an opportunity to correct his mistake in first-half stoppage time, and he took full advantage. A Chelsea corner was flicked on by Diego Costa at the near-post, and the ball fell to Mikel, who controlled it and poked it past Trapp for the equaliser. Spanish striker Costa had a great chance to make it 2-1 after the break when the energetic Willian broke clear from deep inside the Chelsea half and found Costa in space, but his shot was well-saved by Trapp. That was one of the few opportunities for the Londoners in the second stanza as PSG laid siege to the Chelsea goal. Former Manchester United player Angel di Maria produced a marvellous 30-metre pile-driver that was kept out by Courtois, while Moura, Ibrahimovic and Blaise Matuidi all came close to getting PSG’s second goal. But the Chelsea defence, who were without stalwart John Terry due to a hamstring niggle, eventually crumbled when Argentine star Di Maria’s Lionel Messi-like little lob over the top caught Branislav Ivanovic ball-watching, with Cavani clear on the right-hand side of the Chelsea box. Ivanovic couldn’t close down the Uruguayan finisher quickly enough, and the 29-year-old Cavani, who came on as a substitute for Moura in the 74th minute, let rip with a lethal shot past Courtois just four minutes later. Ibrahimovic had another inviting late scoring chance, but was thwarted by Belgian minder Courtois, who was one of the heroes of the Chelsea effort. The defeat ended Chelsea’s 12-match unbeaten run under Hiddink, but keeping the score down to just 2-1 would’ve given the Blues hope of qualifying for the quarter-finals with victory in the last-16 second leg on March 9. Meanwhile in Lisbon, Portugal, Brazilian forward Jonas broke the hearts of Zenit St Petersburg supporters with a winner in the first minute of stoppage time in the second half to give Benfica a 1-0 victory on Tuesday night. Zenit, though, are a formidable force at home and will fancy their chances of advancing from the second leg on March 9. Wednesday will see more Champions League last-16 action as Gent take on Wolfsburg in Belgium, while Real Madrid travel to Italy to face Roma at the Olympic Stadium. Next week will see further enthralling clashes, with Arsenal hosting Barcelona in London and Juventus entertaining Bayern Munich in Turin on Tuesday, while the next day, Manchester City will hope to survive the cold of Ukraine when they square off with Dynamo Kiev. PSV Eindhoven and Atletico Madrid complete the last-16 line-up in The Netherlands.
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