PARIS (AP) — Striker Edinson Cavani gave Paris Saint-Germain a Champions League lifeline with a second-half equalizer as his team drew 1-1 with Chelsea in the first leg of their last 16 match on Tuesday.
PARIS (AP) — Striker Edinson Cavani gave Paris Saint-Germain a Champions League lifeline on Tuesday with a second-half equalizer as his team battled to a 1-1 draw with Chelsea in the last 16.
After defender Branislav Ivanovic put Chelsea ahead in the 36th minute of the first leg match with a looping header, Cavani equalized with a downward header in the 54th.
PSG coach Laurent Blanc had expected a commanding performance from striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic, but Cavani looked sharper and could have scored more. With 10 minutes remaining, he burst into the penalty area and poked the ball just wide.
Thibaut Courtois, preferred to Petr Cech in goal for the visitors, denied Cavani with a spectacular first-half save and made four other fine stops to give Chelsea an edge for the return leg on March 11.
With seconds left, Courtois denied Ibrahimovic and the Sweden striker held his head in frustration.
PSG paid the price for one lapse in midfield, denying Blanc the clean sheet he desperately wanted after his side was knocked out of the quarterfinals on away goals last season by Chelsea — winning the first leg 3-1 and losing the return 2-0.
Chelsea broke the deadlock after Cesar Azpilicueta collected a loose ball on the left flank. From the Spaniard's cross, center half Gary Cahill nimbly flicked the ball on with the side of his foot and Ivanovic anticipated the bounce to plant a firm header into the left corner.
It was yet another important goal from the Serbian. He scored the winner 10 days ago away to Aston Villa and in the League Cup semifinal win against Liverpool last month.
However, he let himself down midway through the second half with a rugby-style tackle on Cavani, and Chelsea had Courtois to thank for tipping over Thiago Silva's header from the ensuing free kick.
PSG had the game's first chance when Ibrahimovic released Cavani down the left and his curling cross was headed powerfully goalward by midfielder Blaise Matuidi, forcing Courtois into a smart save to his right.
Courtois reacted moments later to punch away Ibrahimovic's header.
Stifled in midfield, Chelsea probed from the flanks and Eden Hazard finally got behind the defense in the 26th, but his teasing cross was beaten away by goalie Salvatore Sirigu.
Hazard's ability to weave his way through tight spaces gave the visitors a much-needed outlet.
From one quick break in the 30th, Hazard drew a foul from midfielder Marco Verratti, but midfielder Cesc Fabregas' free kick was easily punched away by Sirigu.
PSG caught Chelsea with a quick break soon after, as winger Ezequiel Lavezzi forced a corner. He took it, Cavani stole ahead of his marker and his brilliant glancing header forced Courtois into an equally good save.
After Chelsea's goal, the home side looked rattled.
David Luiz, playing in midfield against the Premier League club which sold him in the summer, even took matters into his own hands on the stroke of halftime.
After referee Cuneyt Cakir awarded a free kick and sprayed the ground to show where it should be taken from, Luiz scooped the foam away with his hands and tried to smear it on the ground several paces to the left, giving PSG a more central position to shoot from.
It made no difference as Ibrahimovic blasted over.
PSG equalized after left back Maxwell released Matuidi on the overlap and Cavani showed great timing to get ahead of Cahill.
PSG was agonizingly close to taking the lead on 60 minutes.
Ibrahimovic muscled his way into the area and his low shot was expertly kicked away by Courtois at full stretch. The ball fell to Lavezzi who looked certain to score, only for Azpilicueta to make a superb block.
Parking the bus is a term used to describe teams defending in numbers, and Chelsea did plenty of that.
Their parking before the match was not quite as good, however, as the team bus sustained some minor damage and a couple of broken windows after scraping a wall as it pulled into Parc des Princes.