LONDON, March 10: Paris Saint-Germain (PSG) topped Chelsea 2-1 in the second leg match to seal a 4-2 win on aggregate in the contest for a slot in the Champions League quarterfinals.
This marks the second year running that PSG has defeated Chelsea in the round of 16.
One important difference from last year’s second-leg at Stamford Bridge was the role of PSG’s star, Zlatan Ibrahimovic, who was ejected from the 2015 contest on a controversial red card.
On Wednesday, the 34-year-old Swedish international assisted on the visitors’ first goal and scored the second himself.
Chelsea sought to score early to erase the 2-1 deficit from the first leg in Paris and Diego Costa forced a save from PSG goalkeeper Kevin Trapp just three minutes in.
But in the absence of injured captain and defensive mainstay John Terry, Chelsea scrambled to keep pace with the high-powered PSG attack.
Angel di Maria nearly scored in the first 10 minutes, beating Chelsea keeper Thibaut Courtois after a great pass from Lucas Moura only to see defender Branislav Ivanovic stop the ball on the line.
In the 15th minute, Di Maria fed Ibra charging down the right side and the big man served up a perfect cross for Adrien Rabiot to redirect into the net, making it 1-0 for the visitors on the night.
But Chelsea battled on, as Willian exploited Thiago Motta’s giveaway in the PSG end and fed the ball to Costa, who eluded Thiago Silva to hammer the ball past Trapp in the 27th minute.
Down 2-3 on aggregate at the break, Chelsea started the second half with plenty of energy, though the outlook for the London club darkened just before the one-hour mark, when Costa left the game with an injury.
Even so, Chelsea got a pair of chances at 64 minutes, when Trapp had to make stops on Willian and Eden Hazard in quick succession.
Two minutes later, Ibrahimovic scored from the six-yard box on a cross from Di Maria, pushing PSG’s advantage to 4-2 on aggregate and setting Chelsea the impossible task of scoring three goals in the final 25 minutes.
On the other hand, Benfica beat Zenit St. Petersburg 2-1 in the second leg match to win their knockout stage tie 3-1 on aggregate and claim a berth in the quarterfinals of the Champions League.
The Portuguese side made the trip to St. Petersburg without an injured first-team goalkeeper Julio Cesar and three starting defenders, reports Efe.
With his team down 0-1 after the first leg in Lisbon, Zenit coach Andre Villas-Boas fielded an offensive-minded squad in hopes of overcoming the deficit and taking the Russian club to the Champions final eight for the first time.
Both teams started the match cautiously and Zenit’s reluctance to commit men forward allowed the depleted Benfica defence to play confidently.
Benfica’s best opportunity came in the 20th minute, when newcomer Renato Sanches grazed the outside of the right post with a shot from a distance.
Zenit were more aggressive in the second half and Brazilian Hulk woke up in time to give his team a chance, scoring in the 69th minute to make it 1-0.
Benfica came roaring back and would have pulled ahead again just two minutes later but Zenit keeper Yuri Lodygin did well enough to produce a spectacular stop.
With Zenit going full steam for a second goal, Benfica seemed content to force the contest into overtime. But Raul Jimenez had other ideas.
The Mexican unleashed a magnificent volley from outside the area. Lodygin made the initial save, but an unmarked Nicolas Gaitan tapped the loose ball into the net in the 85th minute to make it 1-1.
Substitute Talisca brought the score to 2-1 for Benfica with a goal in the final seconds of stoppage time. – IANS