PARC DES PRINCES, PARIS — Paris Saint-Germain claimed an enthralling 3-1 victory over Chelsea at an electric Parc des Princes on Wednesday night, and they were able to do so in second gear.
The PSG faithful turned out in droves, filling the house in hope of a stellar performance against what was comfortably the strongest side the squad faced this season.
The flags flew proudly prior to kick-off, and a deafening roar followed the announcement of every PSG player during the introductions. "Ici c'est Paris!" (this is Paris!) read a gargantuan screen in the corner of the Auteuil end of the stadium, and just four minutes in, the stadium erupted.
Woeful defending from Chelsea saw the defensive line drop criminally deep to deal with a cross, and John Terry's poor headed clearance fell to an unmarked Ezequiel Lavezzi, who looped a finish into the top corner.
Ici c'est Paris.
But the intensity with which PSG started lasted just 15 minutes, and Jose Mourinho recalibrated his side to deal with the onslaught of attacks.
The defensive line pushed up, David Luiz stopped struggling and, critically, Zlatan Ibrahimovic disappeared off the face of the earth.
PSG slipped into lethargic mode—the mode they live in while playing Ligue 1 fixtures against lesser teams week in, week out—and the crowd went from anguish to rage in record time.
Chelsea equalised, deservedly, via the penalty spot after Marco Verratti gave the ball away. It was to become a theme in the first half, with Edinson Cavani perhaps the most guilty in that area.
The home team reached half-time lucky to be level, with poor performances far outweighing the good ones. Laurent Blanc did little to the shape of his side during the break, but he breathed a little fire into their bellies, as they came out sharper, quicker and more incisive.
David Luiz's own goal saw the Parc des Princes erupt once again, and from then on, every tackle, pass and shot was cheered vociferously; France's capital hadn't heard such a noise in a long, long time.
Ici c'est Paris.
Had PSG been more clinical, had Cavani put his shooting boots on and had they been more eager to bury the game, they could have, but les Parisiens took their foot off the pedal.
Again, a byproduct of bossing Ligue 1.
As the clock ticked down to 90 minutes with the score 2-1, PSG looked to be strolling. No tempo, no probing attacks, no darting runs: The French outfit were happy, it seemed, with the score.
Then, a magical individual moment from Javier Pastore lent les Parisiens a huge advantage in the tie, dodging several tackles, keeping the ball inside the boundaries and firing home at the near post. It's the most he's ever done to justify his €40 million price tag.
ICI C'EST PARIS!
PSG's strength in depth is enviable, and the team responded—in patches—to the effort the fans made in hauling their side over the line. They flicked from cruise-control to 3-1 winners in seconds, and that sort of armoury can be invaluable during tight games.
With Ibrahimovic likely out of the second leg (he looked downcast as he strolled past the mixed zone and his personal physio jogged along after him), the second leg could be Cavani's reckoning and Lucas' redemption.
The only thing stopping Blanc's men from seeing out the tie at Stamford Bridge and progressing to the final four is themselves; when they play they play, but too often, they sit off and take it easy.