This seems like an utterly ridiculous thing to write, but in the UEFA Champions League, a loss isn't always a loss. Chelsea's 2-1 defeat against Paris Saint-Germain on Tuesday seems like one of those situations, as the Blues will have some work to do on March 9 when they resume the tie in London, but John Obi Mikel's away goal in the first half leaves them with a very good chance to advance.
From a Chelsea perspective, this match started about as poorly as possible, with PSG dominating possession and creating several half-chances from range. It was about 20 minutes before the Blues even managed to string together more than 2-3 passes, and the few times that Guus Hiddink's side were able to manage that many, they typically gave it back to the French leaders without advancing out of their own half.
The first booking of the match seemed to calm Chelsea down, however, as Zlatan Ibrahimovic, who was sent off against the Blues last season, cynically trod on John Obi Mikel at about the 20 minute mark. Following that foul, the home side seemed to back off of their intense pressing a bit, allowing Chelsea to occasionally take the ball into the other half of the field, and begin to do a bit of attacking of their own.
The first real chance of the contest came several minutes later, when Diego Costa was only denied by an absolutely brilliant PSG save. Costa's far post run was picked out by the rarely used Baba Rahman, who delivered an inch-perfect cross over the head of David Luiz, that Costa headed back toward the far post. Unfortunately for the Blues, keeper Kevin Trapp managed to get a hand to it, and pushed it onto the crossbar, before it bounced out of play for a corner.
That attempt seemed to light a fire under Chelsea, who actually began to look the more likely side to score as the half wore on. The game was opening up a bit, and unfortunately, the Blues coming out of their shell probably aided in the home side opening the scoring.
With seven minutes remaining in the first half, PSG took possession and drove straight through the Chelsea midfield, something they were able to do for most of the night. Lucas Moura was driving into the 18-yard box, and instead of leaving the forward for Chelsea's center backs to deal with, John Obi Mikel attempted a dangerous tackle, giving away a free kick 20 yards from goal. Zlatan, who had already missed high and wide from about that range, decided to bend a low kick around the wall on this attempt. Thibaut Courtois looked to have it covered, but unfortunately, the ball deflected off of the leg of Mikel, leaving the Belgian keeper no chance to keep it out of Chelsea's net.
Clearly feeling the need to make up for his errors, Mikel wound up leveling the score with the last kick of the first half. Following a Cesc Fabregas cross that was deflected out for a corner, Willian's delivery was sent to the post by Costa, where Mikel had enough space to take a touch before banging the ball into the net. The referee, so shocked by the fact that Mikel had scored a goal, immediately brought play to a halt, giving both sides a needed break to come to terms with the gravity of that event.
Both sides came out of the break looking to continue the scoring, with each keeper being required to make big saves in the opening minutes of the second half. As the second 45 minutes wore on, however, the Blues seemed more than happy to head home with an away goal and a draw, defending deeper, looking to clear, and simply seeing out the result.
While this club was once renowned for its ability to kill off a match, this season, they've been absolutely terrible at it. That trend, unfortunately, continued on Tuesday night, as with just over 15 minutes remaining, a perfect run allowed Edinson Cavani to slip in behind Branislav Ivanovic, and the Uruguayan blasted a perfect volley between the legs of Thibaut Courtois. The Blues will now head back to London with a deficit, and will need to win at Stamford Bridge to advance in the Champions League.
Fortunately, history tells us that a 2-1 deficit isn't that hard to overturn, with the away goal almost neutralizing PSG's one-goal aggregate advantage. We'll need to win at home to keep our Champions League dreams alive, but if the Blues can continue to put together some good performances between now and then, there's ever reason to think that it could happen.