Chelsea grabbed a vital away goal in the first leg of their Champions League round-of-16 tie against Paris Saint-Germain on Tuesday but slipped to a 2-1 defeat at the Parc des Princes.
PSG took the lead shortly before the break through Zlatan Ibrahimovic, but John Obi Mikel pulled the Blues level with the last kick of the first half. Substitute Edinson Cavani put the hosts ahead in the tie once again late on.
Les Parisiens flew out of the traps as they controlled possession and chances, but after a difficult start, Chelsea weathered the storm and created several opportunities of their own in an exciting, often end-to-end affair.
The effervescent Lucas Moura led PSG's early charge as he showed intent from the outset, immediately driving toward Chelsea's penalty area.
Marco Verratti soon had an early swerving effort from distance palmed away by Thibaut Courtois before Lucas lashed a powerful long-range strike wide of the post as the Blues struggled to keep up with their opponents.
Lucas had another chance when he latched on to Blaise Matuidi's neat ball forward, but Cesar Azpilicueta did well to shepherd the Brazilian away from goal. Journalist Dan Levene noted the start was ominous for Chelsea:
Going to be a long night for the Chelsea defence by the look of it.— Dan Levene (@danlevene) February 16, 2016
The Blues steadily grew into the encounter, though, and soon after had the best chance of the game so far when Baba Rahman delivered an excellent ball into the box.
Diego Costa should have scored but powered his header at Kevin Trapp—who, to his credit, reacted incredibly well to push the ball on to the crossbar. Football writer Andrew Gibney hailed the save:
Best moment of Trapp's career. Pure instinct that save.#psg— Andrew Gibney (@Gibney_A) February 16, 2016
Ibrahimovic also should have done better with a close-range header, but the striker could only direct his effort downwards for it to then bounce over the bar.
The Swede soon gave his side the lead, though, as he fired in a low free-kick courtesy of a fortuitous deflection off Mikel in the wall.
Les Parisiens held the lead for just six minutes, as Mikel controlled and fired home from close range after Costa headed on a Willian corner, per BT Sport Football:
Squawka Football highlighted the difference in the two players' fortunes in front of goal—something BBC Sport's John Bennett also wryly noted:
Zlatan Ibrahimović has now scored 32 goals in his last 32 games for club and country. Like a fine wine… pic.twitter.com/xJvKIrwQmZ— Squawka Football (@Squawka) February 16, 2016
John Obi Mikel has now scored 6 goals in 356 games for Chelsea.— Squawka Football (@Squawka) February 16, 2016
Stick him up front. pic.twitter.com/nfuVhiOwjC
As everyone predicted it's come down to a battle between two of European football's best goalscorers, Zlatan Ibrahimovic and John Obi Mikel.— John Bennett (@JohnBennettBBC) February 16, 2016
The Blues almost scored again early in the second half when Willian launched a counter-attack with a lovely ball to Costa, but Trapp came off his line quickly to close down the striker's shot as he raced on to the pass.
PSG continued to push forward, and twice in quick succession Angel Di Maria caused problems with teasing balls into the box, but Gary Cahill and then Courtois were quick to snuff out the danger.
The 'keeper was called into action again when Lucas fired on goal, and Branislav Ivanovic made a vital block when the ball fell for Matuidi in the penalty area as the hosts built up some momentum.
As Gibney noted, Chelsea's decision to sit back on their away goal helped PSG:
Chelsea sitting back plays into PSG's hands. This is what they face every week. There's a reason why CFC were better in the second half— Andrew Gibney (@Gibney_A) February 16, 2016
The Blues still offered a threat on the break, and substitute Oscar was a whisker away from touching a ball up field past Trapp.
PSG's pressure eventually told, though, when Cavani raced on to a lofted pass from Di Maria, and the Uruguayan ruthlessly fired in between Courtois' legs from a narrow angle, per BT Sport:
Both sides had chances in the dying moments as Ibrahimovic shot straight at the on-rushing Courtois, while Pedro fired into the side netting after finding space on the right.
Ultimately, the score was a fair reflection of how the game played out, and PSG will be happy to take a lead to Stamford Bridge for the second leg.
Chelsea's away goal will give them great encouragement, though, as a 1-0 win in the second leg would be enough to see them through to the quarter-finals.
The tie is still there for the taking by either side, and based on Tuesday's thrilling encounter, the second leg should be just as explosive.
Per BT Sport Football, Chelsea manager Guus Hiddink expressed his disappointment at the defeat but was pleased with the away goal:
According to UEFA, PSG coach Laurent Blanc was frustrated with the end result but praised his side's performance.
At half-time I was very upset because of the goal we conceded just seconds before the whistle. It's one of our biggest regrets tonight: we had the opportunity to keep the ball but we gave it away easily, then we conceded two corner kicks and then that goal. But I encouraged my players to continue playing like they were. We stayed true to our philosophy and managed to impose our game, which we have had a hard time doing recently. This 2-1 win isn't a massive advantage but my team played well.
Further, he is anticipating a similarly exciting second leg: "The return leg will probably be similar because both sides will display the same qualities."