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Chelsea 1 Paris Saint-Germain 2 (agg 2-4): Zlatan Ibrahimovic sends French side sailing through in West London

 

The end of Chelsea’s Champions League dream — and probably the beginning of the end of the second Blues team built by Jose Mourinho.

It could also spell the end for John Terry. With the Blues already out of next year’s tournament bar an earthquake, you doubt JT will ever appear in the Champions League again.

You must also ask whether a team without the carrot of the world’s premier knockout tournament will be able to keep stars like Eden Hazard, the brilliant Willian, Oscar and Pedro.

Then comes the problem of replacing them — and the inspirational leadership of JT.

The injured Chelsea skipper could only look on as the unerring boot of Zlatan Ibrahimovic consigned Roman Abramovich’s Chelsea to the European out-tray.

The Swede’s 67th-minute half-volley from Angel Di Maria’s cross was his 31st goal of the season, his 48th in 116 Champions League games and a fitting riposte to the jeers and cat calls that had greeted his first-half red card in the same fixture last season.

That Chelsea made such a go of it until then was down to their new-found belief under Guus Hiddink.

The match had seemed over as a contest when PSG struck after just 16 minutes to go 3-1 up on aggregate.

As Di Maria swept through the middle, suicidal Chelsea defending allowed Ibrahimovic to roam free on the right of the box.

 

It was like leaving a rattlesnake unattended. A quick cross drilled to the far post and there was Adrien Rabiot to put PSG ahead.

Up to a few months ago that would have been it. Last night, though, Chelsea were level within 11 minutes when Diego Costa scored his 11th goal in 15 games — turning past Thiago Silva and sweeping his shot across goalkeeper Kevin Trapp.

The Brazil-born Spaniard terrorised PSG’s defence all night until he was forced off on the hour having aggravated the tendon injury that kept him out of Saturday’s draw with Stoke.

With him went most of Chelsea’s hopes. Yet they might have taken the game into extra-time but for an outstanding double save by Trapp in the 66th minute.

Within a minute, though, Ibrahimovic had applied the coup de grace.

While Chelsea had gambled on the fitness of Costa, PSG took no chances with playmaker Marco Verratti.

It was Costa (right) who could have put Chelsea ahead as early as the second minute when a typically casual ball out of defence by David Luiz let the Blues striker in for a shot that was pushed aside by Trapp.

More worrying, though, was the lapse by Courtois up the other end three minutes later — the Belgian keeper lost in no man’s land trying to halt Di Maria and requiring Branislav Ivanovic to clear the Argentine’s shot off the line.

But the real lapse would come after 16 minutes when Ivanovic went missing in action, allowing Di Maria to find Ibrahimovic on his own on the left of the penalty area.

A pinpoint cross behind Chelsea’s defence and there was Rabiot to steer home at the far post with Cahill powerless to stop him. That seemed to be that with PSG now 3-1 ahead.

But Chelsea are made of sterner stuff in the immediate post-Mourinho era and refused to either buckle or allow the French to dictate the game.

Within 11 minutes they were back to 1-1 with a goal that said much about Chelsea — and Costa — at their best.

It started when Pedro robbed Di Maria and played a one-two with Willian before threading a ball up to Costa on the edge of the box.

The striker went one way, Thiago Silva the other and, with some close control that even Laurent Blanc must have admired, Costa placed his shot past Trapp.

Costa was now on fire, doing pretty much as he pleased against a PSG defence that did not seem to want to commit themselves to the tackle.

Deep into first-half injury time, he gave them another scare.

Again Costa went floating across the pitch with the PSG back line failing to get a glove on him before turning to angle in a shot on goal.

It wasn’t the fiercest he has struck but it still required a sprawling dive by Trapp to ease it past the post.

And that was half-time with Hazard dubiously swapping shirts with Di Maria as they went off. There was no let up in either pace or commitment after the break with Chelsea looking capable of levelling the tie.

They would have but for a tremendous double save on 66 minutes as Trapp went low to his left to keep out Willian and then blocked the follow-up from Hazard.

A minute later, though, it was all over — only Chelsea’s second defeat in 19 games under Hiddink.

Pivotally, both came against the best team they have played this season. A team considerably superior to anything in the Premier League.

Gerard Pique outs himself as a Leicester fan after brilliant win over Man City

 

And with five La Liga titles, not to mention three Champions League wins, who would argue with the Spaniard?

Up next for the Foxes is a trip to Arsenal, before a winnable home clash against Norwich.

Win those and Ranieri’s side will hold a decent advantage over their rivals heading in to March.

 

And even if they fall slightly short, they will almost certainly be playing in Europe next season, perhaps against their newest fan.

At least Pique will be familiar with the threat Jamie Vardy and Riyad Mahrez pose after watching them turn Premier League defenders inside out.

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