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Chelsea hold on in Paris to secure important draw

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That could have gone worse. It would take a very short memory indeed to forget how dangerous Paris Saint-Germain can be, especially at the Parc des Princes -- we're less than 12 months removed from a 3-1 deficit that required a heroic Demba Ba goal to recover from -- and that the hosts caused us problems is no surprise at all. All in all, then, a 1-1 draw is a perfectly cromulent result, the sort of scoreline that you'd expect from a mild favourite in a tough competition.

Job done, in other words.

It was an odd game. PSG's injured players would probably constitute a decent five-a-side team, and as a result their team looked a little odd. We're used to seeing David Luiz move into midfield, but Laurent Blanc had been using him as a centre half until today. That switch meant two very mobile destroyers in Luiz and Blaise Matuidi and an extremely aggressive playmaker in Marco Verratti, and it was obvious how they planned to play. Pain, after all, is an effective weapon.

There's nothing wrong with this, and Chelsea have employed the same trick to great effect over the years, but that result was that the early parts of the match were entirely stifled by rough play and fouls. Sure, there were some chances, mostly coming from their press working against our midfield (which seemed a little lost), but Thibaut Courtois was there to save against Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Matuidi, and PSG's buildup play was basically non-existent.

Their hope, I imagine, was mostly to defend by kicking their guests as hard as possible whenever possible and hope that doing so would lead to a clean sheet. They were aided in this by referee Cuneyt Cakir, who was extraordinarily lenient for most of the game, which encouraged more and more kicking.

It's really difficult to construct an attack when David Luiz is flying at you all angry-like, and Chelsea essentially resigned themselves to keeping possession and hoping that nobody would hurt them too badly. The slightest hint of initiative was mercilessly stamped out by the roving destroyers in the Paris midfield, and since no yellow cards were forthcoming, they just did it again and again and again ... and then they did so too close to their own goal.

The downside of the foul-everyone-all-the-time strategy, beyond the possibility of having someone sent off, is that set pieces can sometimes hurt you, and that's eventually what happened as the first half was winding down. Not that Chelsea's goal came from something as inelegant as free kick. Not really, anyway. It was much more than that.

A John Terry cross. A Gary Cahill backheel flick. A stunned -- rightly so -- gaggle of defenders. And Branislav Ivanovic there to nod the ball over a visibly bewildered Salvatore Sirigu and give Chelsea a 1-0 lead they'd previously looked nowhere near taking. Thank Marquinhos, I suppose -- his failure to track Cahill's run was the reason that the rest of their defence were turned into spectators, but I all in all it was an utterly, utterly beautiful goal and had we managed to see the match out it's probably all we'd be talking about right now.

But, alas, it was not to be. The Blues got to halftime with the lead intact, but Blanc completely changed the plan at the interval and his side metamorphosed from the sad pupa that contested the first half into the annoyingly beautiful butterfly of the second. Gone was the fear, mostly out of need. A 1-0 home loss constitutes a major disaster in European play, and PSG were determined to at least claw it back. And afterwards, well, they'd see.

It didn't take long for the goal to come, but when it arrived it came in utterly ludicrous fashion. Matuidi overloaded the Chelsea right with a fairly trademark run (picked out by David Luiz), and although the cross was essentially undefendable at source, it was very much ours for the taking while airborne. The target, Edinson Cavani, was surrounded by a ring of yellow shirts and sandwiched between both centre halves ... and then Cahill took a step into the ball, completely missed it, and gave the Uruguayan a free header.

He didn't miss.

PSG were on the front foot and proceeded to put us through the wringer. Courtois was forced into superb saves from Ibrahimovic and Cavani, and Cesar Azpilicueta managed to accidentally clear off the line from Ezequiel Lavezzi's deflected effort. Chelsea never seriously threatened again, and although we had some extended respites from the storm, the rest of the game was all about the hosts trying to find a winner.

That it never arrived was mostly thanks to Courtois, who deserves special mention after being dropped for Petr Cech against Everton. Against both Manchester City and Aston Villa, the young Belgian had looked uncharacteristically wobbly, but here he was close to his best, and his injury-time save from Ibrahimovic's header was little short of spectacular. That we were able to limp away with a 1-1 draw -- a very good result -- was mostly down to him.

So. Outplayed and broadly outfought. But not beaten. And considering just how much alcohol our last match in Paris led me to consume, I think this constitutes a rather massive improvement.

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