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Chelsea sleepwalk their way to Champions League elimination

Paul Gilham/Getty Images

3-3, away goals win it turns out to be a lot less fun this time around. Chelsea are out of the Champions League at the second hurdle, falling victim to that man David Luiz and his merry band of Parisians.

The 2-2 draw (which took extra time to settle) probably won't go down as a classic. If not for the raw tension that crackled around Stamford Bridge, it would have been essentially unwatchable, a slapstick farce of the match in which our midfield was only overshadowed in terms of raw incompetence by the referee.

Losing to Paris Saint-Germain on away goals is, of course, not a terrible result in and of itself. But what makes this sting -- and I mean properly sting -- was that we were essentially playing a man up for a full 90-minute game. Zlatan Ibrahimovic got his marching orders half an hour in after going into a 50-50 challenge against Oscar, a tackle that looked far worse in real time than on replay, and the referee looked to have handed Chelsea a huge advantage.

Not that it looked as though we needed it. The story of the first half will go unwritten in light of what followed, but all was basically going to plan. Blaise Matuidi aside, PSG had minimal threat, and using Matuidi as a runner from deep meant that the visitors' midfield was decidedly vulnerable. And so it was Chelsea who looked the more capable going forward.

The Blues were particularly dangerous on the left, where Marquinhos was doing his best impression of a fullback. The Brazilian was getting far too tight to the forwards, and as a result got torched repeatedly by Eden Hazard. But the final product was never quite there, with Oscar and Ramires to blame for some truly diabolical touches in the attacking third.

That said, there should have been a goal for Chelsea before the break after Diego Costa broke through what felt like half the PSG team before being tripped by Edinson Cavani in the box. After awarding the visitors a harsh red earlier on, the referee was in no mood to add a penalty to the equation, and the Uruguayan escaped punishment. As, indeed, did David Luiz, who managed to plant an elbow right onto Costa's face without anyone noticing. It was a magnificent display of the 'dark arts', and had it not been so very annoying it probably would have merited applause.

Chelsea were getting riled up -- Costa from the tussling with Luiz and Oscar over the collision with Ibrahimovic -- and that ended up costing them dearly. After the display three weeks ago in Paris, Jose Mourinho clearly wanted to shut Marco Verratti down, and Oscar is the perfect man to do it. But after keeping the Italian quiet for so long, he earned a stupid yellow before the break and followed that up with another dubious foul just minutes later.

A red was coming, and so the hook came sooner. After the interval, Willian was on in his stead, and more or less everything collapsed. Cesc Fabregas had started in the pivot, but moved into the hole with Oscar's absence. But they're completely different kinds of players, and Verratti suddenly found himself with time and space to dictate the game. And so he did.

Give a midfield orchestrator room to play with and enough motivation to stun an oxen from 100 feet and it's remarkable what they can do. 10 men or no, PSG were back in the match. The served notice through the combination of Verratti and Cavani. The pass that led to the chance was brilliant, with Verratti carving Chelsea open on the counterattack, but Cavani failed to make the most of it, rounding Thibaut Courtois and then firing off the inside of the near post from a narrow angle.

That miss was a huge let off for the Blues, who responded by turning off entirely. Possession and initiative were both sacrificed to the visitors, and the pressure ratcheted ever upwards. Fortunately PSG weren't actually playing that well -- their attacks were mostly incoherent -- and Courtois didn't have a great deal to do. But the danger signs were there, and it's fair to say that Chelsea were outplayed in the second half.

Gary Cahill took it upon himself to hand us what felt like a vital boost, smashing home a loose ball on the half-volley with 81 minutes gone, but even with a 2-1 aggregate lead we never felt safe. And when, with the time ticking down, David Luiz made his homecoming a night for us all to forget, thumping in an incredible header from a corner to send the match to extra time.

Another 30 minutes of football was the last thing we wanted with a tough match against Southampton to come this weekend, but extra time started well enough, and Chelsea quickly retook the lead from the spot. I'm not entirely sure what Thiago Silva was trying to accomplish when he waved his hands above his head while challenging Kurt Zouma for a high ball, but it didn't come off, leaving the referee signalling for a penalty and Eden Hazard to do mean things to Salvatore Sirigu.

But the game still wasn't over. Extra time at home in a two-legged tie is fraught with peril, because away goals make conceding almost impossible to recover from. PSG had gone behind, but they were hardly out of the match, and although the Blues had more or less righted the ship after their weak second half, they were still vulnerable to a smash and grab raid.

Courtois's incredible save from a Silva header only postponed the inevitable. From the resultant corner, Brazil's captain (free because Terry and Cahill marked each other rather than, say, an opponent) rose to send a looping header over the stranded* goalkeeper and in at the back post. Chelsea were too tired to do much about it.

*Mostly Courtois' own fault, that, but considering the save he pulled off just earlier it's hard to complain too much.

And that was that. No more Champions League. The last time we were knocked out at this stage, of course, saw us go on to lift the Premier League crown. Replicate that feat and I think everyone will be happy. If not, I want to see a man about some baby horses.

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