Who says Mourinho doesn’t write his own scripts? That he isn’t “Special” anymore? Whatever you think about him, you cannot deny his magnetism, his ability to conjure big performances in the big matches. You really dont expect a team to qualify after losing 3-1 to Paris St Germain, a team that boasts of such attacking prowess and had won 11 games in a row in all competitions before coming into the match. But that is Jose, a true tactical genius. Now eight quarter-final appearances in the Champions League, with Porto, Chelsea, Inter and Real Madrid, an unprecedented eight victories. And this, perhaps, the greatest, the most unlikely. Not only just the third time a side has clawed back a 3-1 deficit, but one grasped with sheer desire, heart and courage, just as it appeared all their efforts would be in vain.
But it was not a walk in the park for Chelsea. After barely a quarter of an hour, Chelsea lost their talisman when Eden Hazard, the best in a blue shirt this season, limped off. The Blues were also missing the midfield energy of the suspended Ramires. Andrea Schurrle came on for Hazard. For half an hour, Chelsea made few inroads into their deficit as PSG defended with an assured confidence. Lampard’s freekick took a wicked deflection and was heading towards goal before a spectacular save by Sirigu kept it out. The momentum shifted on 32 minutes as Ivanovic’s long throw was headed into the path of Schurrle by David Luiz, and the German made no mistake in slotting it past Salvatore Sirigu.
Chelsea were handed a massive chance to get the second goal they needed on the 37 minutes mark. A set piece again caused alarm in the PSG box and as the loose ball fell to Gary Cahill he took a wild swipe at it slicing his shot wide.
PSG’s air of authority disappeared following the goal as Schurrle came mighty close to grabbing his and Chelsea’s second of the night on 52 minutes. Full of confidence, Schurrle let fly from 20 yards and his shot crashed against the bar with Sirigu completely beaten.Seconds later, the woodwork came to PSG’s aid again; a brilliant free-kick from Oscar beat Sirigu but thudded against the crossbar and away from danger.
With 25 minutes left on the clock, Jose Mourinho rolled the dice by bringing on Demba Ba ahead of Fernando Torres. Ba looked promising, winning the odd headers and he flicked a header into the path of Schurrle. The ball would not sit down for the forward and his shot was saved by Sirigu.
PSG attack looked toothless, with only a few shots on target that barely troubled Cech, and a couple of shots by Cavani that went over the bar.
If nothing else, it had developed into a wonderful tie with the tension that one mistake capable of swinging it either way. With just 10 minutes to go and still needing a goal Mourinho decided to field all of his three strikers with Torres coming on for Oscar. But the fairy-tale finish belonged to Ba, who got ahead of Maxwell when Cesar Azpilicueta’s shot found it’s way into the area. The whole of Stamford Bridge erupted into cheers leaving the 3000 odd travelling fans shellshocked after the 88 minute sucker punch!
All eyes were on Mourinho as the Chelsea manager ran down the touchline towards the corner flag. Mourinho added: “No, it was not to celebrate. It was to tell the players how we had to play the last minutes.”
Chelsea are in the semi-finals on away goals and as they celebrated at the end, you wondered why you had ever doubted them. This is the team that just tends to get its way in Europe. The home fans sang through the game, “We’ve done it before” and that warning certainly came true for Paris Saint Germain. Seven semi-finals in the last 10 years for Chelsea is quite an achievement. The men from Paris, defending a two goal lead, learned a little last night of what it requires to be successful at this level. They just do not give in at Stamford Bridge. Even the loss of Hazard did not deter them. This team has the calibre to go the distance.