It was described by Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho as a ‘joke’ goal as Javier Pastore from Paris Saint-Germain (PSG) weaved his way past several defenders and fired a strong but saveable shot into the near low corner of the Chelsea net to confirm a 3-1 victory. The outspoken Mourinho also bemoaned the lack of penetration by his attacking players and virtually conceded the tie as both teams seek to progress to the Champions League semi-finals next week.
That the English team suffered a 3-1 first leg defeat in Paris is undoubtedly a blow, but an injury to PSG talisman Zlatan Ibrahimovic may be an even greater setback for their manager Laurent Blanc. The Swede has been an instrumental figure in the PSG team as they seek to win successive Ligue 1 titles and with the aid of further finance from the Qatar-based owners, further expensive signings have strengthened an ever more powerful squad.
A Champions League quarter-final tie against Chelsea was viewed as a pivotal moment as the owners sought to establish PSG as one of the supreme football teams of Europe, and with their domination of French football now confirmed, the next stepping stone is significant progress in UEFA’s elite club tournament.
Taking a healthy two goal aggregate lead to Chelsea would suggest that PSG are favourites to progress but besides being the leading striker at the club for two seasons, Ibrahimovic also works for the team and has contributed many assists during his time at the club.
With the Swede expected to miss next week’s second leg between the two teams, the match will be a decisive indicator as to whether PSG are just a one man band with the remaining squad members viewed as added extras in a generally decent team.
For twin striker Edinson Cavani, it will be the opportunity to show that he can emerge from within the shadow of Ibrahimovic and lead the line in a manner which poses a significant threat to the Chelsea defence. Despite his numerous goals this season, the Uruguayan is still perceived as a supporting striker to the Swedish forward and should PSG fail to prosper from such a generous advantage, there will be questions marks against not only Cavani but the attitude and competence of his team-mates.
The other squad members owe it to Ibrahimovic by progressing to the semi-finals and so affording him the opportunity to move increasingly near to his main target for the season. As Sweden failed to qualify for the World Cup, Ibrahimovic will be craving a Champions League triumph now that PSG have virtually sealed Ligue 1.
But can the PSG deliver on the big stage when Ibrahimovic is absent. We will soon know that answer.