PARIS — Paris St Germain sustained their hopes of reaching the Champions League quarter-finals when Edinson Cavani’s powerful second-half header salvaged a 1-1 home draw against Chelsea in their last 6 first leg on Tuesday.
Cavani struck early in the second half to cancel out Branislav Ivanovic’s first-half header, which was scored against the run of play after the French champions had dominated from the start at the Parc des Princes.
Chelsea, who won last year’s quarter-final with PSG on away goals, scored with their only chance while the hosts had several opportunities to take a lead into the second leg through Cavani and Zlatan Ibrahimovic but failed to take them.
The return will be played at Stamford Bridge on March 11. “We could have lost, so I think the result is a positive one . . . against a very good team with fantastic technical players. It was a difficult match,” Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho told ITV.
PSG midfielder David Luiz told Canal Plus: “We played well. They had one chance and they scored. We had a good strategy, we have a good coach, good players. We have ambitions, we can reach the quarter-finals,”
PSG manager Laurent Blanc, having to deal with a barrage of injuries, fielded central defender Luiz in an unusual holding midfield position while Marquinhos paired up with fellow Brazilian Thiago Silva in central defence.
PSG were without defensive midfielders Yohan Cabaye and Thiago Motta, full back Serge Aurier and forward Lucas, who were all injured.
Gregory van der Wiel started at right back with the task of containing Chelsea’s Belgium forward Eden Hazard, which he did rather well.
Chelsea, who were only missing John Obi Mikel, looked content to sit back and wait, hoping to hit the hosts on the break.
PSG dominated possession and came close to opening the scoring in the 11th minute when Chelsea keeper Thibaut Courtois tipped away Blaise Matuidi’s header from Cavani’s cross.
Uruguay striker Cavani’s header at the near post from Ezequiel Lavezzi’s corner was also superbly saved by the diving Courtois in the 34th.
But it was Chelsea who took the lead two minutes later with their first attempt on goal involving three defenders as Ivanovic emphatically headed the ball home after Gary Cahill, cleverly flicked on a John Terry cross.
PSG went on the attack after the break and were rewarded when the unmarked Cavani equalised after 54 minutes with a firm downward header from Matuidi’s cross on the right.
Ibrahimovic then slalomed through the defence before his low shot was saved by Courtois and the rebound fell to the feet of Lavezzi, whose attempt was blocked by Terry.
Cavani then had another header tipped over the bar by Courtois and after a dazzling run into the area saw his low poked shot roll just wide 10 minutes from time.
Blanc brought on Lavezzi for Javier Pastore before Ibrahimovic almost found the winner with a header that was brilliantly saved by Courtois in added time.
Meanwhile, dominant in the first half but scrappy and ineffective in the second, Bayern Munich blamed themselves for failing to score in their 0-0 draw at Shakhtar Donetsk for their Champions League Round of 16 first leg on Tuesday.
The Bavarians had the best scoring chances and allowed only one shot on goal from their opponents but did not make their dominance count, lacking the final pass in front of goal.
“Now it is clear. We have to win in Munich. Nothing else will do,” said Dutch winger Arjen Robben. “We had a good first half and we had our chances. You need to use them when you have them. “It’s a shame because it would have been easier. We did it all ourselves,” said Robben.
The German champions were effective in shutting out Shakhtar, playing their first game in two months, and closed the corridors which their opponents repeatedly tried to use for counter-attacks.
Bayern, chasing their sixth European Cup, are still the odds-on favourites to advance against the Ukrainians, forced to play in the western city of Lviv with their home town a hotspot in the military conflict with Russia.
The Bavarians, however, again failed to replicate their form from earlier this season or even Saturday’s 8-0 demolition of Hamburg SV in the league and will take on Shakhtar without holding midfielder Xabi Alonso, sent off with a second booking. – Reuters.