A heroic Chelsea performance saw Jose Mourinho‘s side overturn a 3-1 deficit from the first leg to reach the Champions League semi-finals courtesy of the away goals rule.
Substitute Demba Ba pounced three minutes from time to make it 2-0 on the night after Andre Schurrle had given us the lead in the first half, and we survived a late Paris Saint-Germain onslaught to reach the last four of the competition against all the odds.
Stamford Bridge has seen some truly unforgettable European nights down the years but this will take some beating for sheer edge-of-the-seat drama and tension.
Having not been breached for the last eight games at the Bridge, we knew going into the match another clean sheet would give us a great chance to progress, and so it proved.
On a night when the whole squad rose to the occasion it would be unfair to single out individiuals; all that matters is that we have progressed, and we can now sit back and await Friday’s draw.
Jose Mourinho made four changes to the side which beat Stoke City 3-0 at the weekend, with Samuel Eto’o coming back into the team for the first time since limping out of our 6-0 win over Arsenal. The back four remained unchanged, while in midfield David Luiz replaced the ineligible Nemanja Matic alongside Frank Lampard. Both Eden Hazard and Oscar, subs on Saturday, were back in the starting line-up, with Andre Schurrle dropping down to the bench and Mohamed Salah unavailable having already played for Basel in this season’s competition.
Former Chelsea defender Alex started for the visitors, and the injured Zlatan Ibrahimovic was replaced by Lucas Moura. The Brazilian was deployed wide on the right-hand side with Edinson Cavani operating in his favoured central striker’s position.
On what was arguably the biggest night of the season so far for the Blues, and with a two-goal deficit to overturn, the atmosphere had been building inside Stamford Bridge long before kick-off.
Claude Makelele, now a member of the Paris Saint-Germain coaching staff, and Alex, were afforded well-deserved ovations as they were introduced to the home supporters, and with the pleasantries completed it was soon down to business.
Laurent Blanc had stated in his pre-match press conference that he expected his side to come under pressure early in the game, but it was the French team who looked more comfortable during the opening exchanges.
As we looked to exert some pressure in the away side, Lampard fizzed in a free-kick which was easily cleared after Hazard was brought down by Alex, and soon after Eto’o snatched at a strike that was deflected behind following a lovely piece of skill by Oscar inside the Paris penalty area.
Mourinho was forced into his first substitution of the night as the 20-minute mark approached, with Hazard unable to continue due to a leg injury, the Belgian replaced by Andre Schurrle in what was tactically a straight swap.
Without the ball, Paris were contend to defend deep and in large numbers, knowing the pace and energy of Ezequiel Lavezzi and Moura would enable them to support Cavani once the ball was retrieved.
Willian became the first player to be booked when he brought a threatening Moura run to a half with a late tackle on his compatriot, who had weaved inside from wide on the right, but from the resulting free-kick Cavani fired straight at the wall.
Oscar appeared to be reaping the benefits of not featuring at the weekend, with the Chelsea number 11 asking questions of the Paris defenders every time he was in possession.
With the half-hour mark approaching we almost took the lead, and it owed much to the guile and craft of the Brazilian, who was awarded a free-kick after being brought down by Marco Verratti.
Lampard took the kick, and the midfielder’s strike, which took a wicked deflection off the head of a defender, looked destined for the near corner until goalkeeper Salvatore Sirigu produced a stunning save, leaping to his right and pushing the ball away.
Minutes later, however, the goal we had been craving arrived, with substitute Schurrle breaking the deadlock.
The Blues forced a throw wide on the right; Ivanovic’s delivery was a good one and, as David Luiz intelligently lowered himself in order to flick the ball on, the unmarked Schurrle reacted quickest to calmly guide his side-footed strike into the bottom corner.
It was a strike which sparked the whole of the stadium, aside from those backing the French side, into life, and a minute later Schurrle had what looked like a legitimate penalty appeal waved away as he worked his way inside from wide on the left, eventually going down under the challenge of Verratti.
Referee Pedro Proenca waved our appeals away, and Verratti breathed a sigh of relief, well aware his night would have been brought to a premature conclusion had the decision gone our way.
We were now firmly in the ascendancy, and after another Lampard free-kick was only partially cleared, Gary Cahill blasted a decent opportunity high and wide.
Schurrle had been a constant threat since coming on, and another driving run from the German was only halted due to a breakdown in communication between himself and Eto’o as the Paris defenders backed off.
Both Cavani and Lampard were shown yellow cards late in the half, for separate incidents, and as the players left the field of play at half-time, Mourinho will have been pleased with what his side had produced.
The Blues were on the front foot early in the second half, and we were unfortunate not to level the tie when Schurrle, from Willian‘s pull-back, crashed his strike against the bar. As the loose ball bounced around on the edge of the box Eto’o was brought down by Moura, and from the resulting free-kick, a stunning Oscar effort once again thumped the bar with Sirigu well beaten.
Much like the first half, the second period had begun at pace, and Cech made a brilliant save from a Lavezzi free-kick as the visitors asked questions for the first time of any note in the game.
Former Newcastle United midfielder Yohan Cabaye was introduced at the expense of Verratti as Blanc looked to freshen up the Paris midfield, with Mourinho making a second change shortly after, Demba Ba replacing Lampard.
Schurrle saw a defelected strike saved by Sirigu after he did well to bring down a long ball out from the back, but while it was the Blues doing most of the probing, Paris’s ability to produce a moment of quality in the final third couldn’t be underestimated.
Cavani fired high over the bar as he raced on to a Matuidi pass, and Javier Pastore, scorer of that late goal in the first leg, came on for Lavezzi.
With less than 20 minutes left to play, the next goal, if one was to come, would undoubtedly have a major impact on the outcome of the tie, and the game remained firmly poised.
Ivanovic produced a brilliant defensive header to deter Cavani as Pastore switched the play, and as the loose ball ran invitingly into the path of Maxwell the full-back drove his strike wide of Cech’s far post.
With 14 minutes left to play Cavani, by now becoming a serious threat, once again wasted a glorious opportunity, firing over the bar with only Cech to beat. The Chelsea goalkeeper then produced a brilliant stop to thwart Moura’s stinging effort from the edge of the penalty area.
A game which the Blues had dominated for long spells saw Blanc’s side grow stronger as our players began to tire, but would there be time for one final twist?
Given our dramatic history in this competition, only a fool would have backed against us stealing it late on, and so it proved.
With just three minutes left to play, and with the French supporters already beginning to celebrate, the ball was tossed into the opposing penalty area. Torres and Eto’o looked to make something happen but were crowded out, and as the loose ball landed at the feet of Cesar Azpilicueta, the Spaniard fired towards goal, with his strike running into the path of Ba who fired home from close range.
Players, supporters management alike celebrated wildly, sensing the tie had been won in the most dramatic of ways.
With the visitors still needing just one goal to progress, however, there was work to be done defensively.
Paris poured forward and Cech, a virtual spectator for much of the game, was called into action three times in quick succession, displaying a commanding presence to punch clear two dangerous corners and then expertly turning a Marquinhos strike around the post.
Ba, Torres and Eto’o, by now, were operating as central defenders, with every player wearing a blue shirt giving everything for the cause.
Most of Mourinho’s men were out on their feet, having run themselves into the ground over the course of the 90 minutes.
The sound of the referee’s final whistle was greeted with a cacophony of noise from the home supporters, confirmation a seemingly impossible job had been carried out to perfection.
The players slumped to the ground in celebration as Mourinho, his staff and those players not involved raced on to the field of play.
We’ve grown accustomed to sensational European nights at the Bridge over the years but few, if any, will top what was, without doubt, a remarkable performance.
The players were back on their feet and dancing with the crowd as ‘One Step Beyond’ rang out around Stamford Bridge, knowing that once again, Chelsea had defied the odds in the Champions League.
Chelsea (4-2-3-1): Cech; Ivanovic, Cahill, Terry (c), Azpilicueta; David Luiz, Lampard; Willian, Oscar (Torres 80), Hazard (Schurrle 17); Eto’o.
Unused substitutes: Schwarzer, Cole, Kalas, Mikel, Ba.
Scorers Schurrle 32, Ba 87
Booked Willian 22, Lampard 40, Ivanovic 54, David Luiz 81
Paris Saint-Germain (4-3-3): Sirigu; Maxwell, Thiago Silva (c), Alex, Jallett; Thiago Motta, Matuidi, Verratti (Cabaye 53); Lucas (Marquinhos 83), Cavani, Lavezzi.
Unused substitutes: Douchez, Van der Wiel, Digne, Menez, Pastore.
Booked Verratti 26, Cavani 39, Moura 51, Maxwell 78
Referee Pedro Proenca (Portugal)