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Ibrahimovic sends PSG in CL quarters

10 March 2016, 08:10

London - Zlatan Ibrahimovic demonstrated his enduring attacking threat Wednesday by steering Paris Saint-Germain into the Champions League quarterfinals with a goal and an assist in a 2-1 victory at Chelsea.

By replicating the first-leg triumph in the French capital last month, PSG eliminated Chelsea for the second successive season in the round of 16 but it is far more damaging for the London club this time.

Languishing in 10th place in the Premier League after a feeble title defence, Chelsea will almost certainly be out of the Champions League next season for the first time since Russian billionaire Roman Abramovich bought the club in 2003.

Although Chelsea conceded in the 16th minute when Ibrahimovic's cross was turned in by Adrien Rabiot, Diego Costa levelled 11 minutes later on his return from injury.

But Costa was forced off on the hour and Chelsea's hopes were deflated.

Ibrahimovic tapped in his 50th Champions League goal seven minutes later after being set up by Angel Di Maria on a sparkling night for the winger.

"They were letting us control the game," said Ibrahimovic, who was sent off here last season. "We are happy at the moment, but still not satisfied."

For the 34-year-old Sweden striker it was a timely goal with his PSG contract expiring at the end of the season while still — like his club — chasing a first Champions League title.

"You ask if he is able to reproduce (his domestic form) in the Champions League and he gave you his answer tonight," PSG coach Laurent Blanc told reporters through a translator. "He was able to keep the two opposition centre backs occupied."

This was a dour final Champions League night at Stamford Bridge, which is to be rebuilt from 2017, forcing the 2012 European champions off the site until the next decade.

The team requires a rebuilding job in the transfer market under Jose Mourinho's permanent successor. Winger Eden Hazard booed as he was substituted injured in the second half, having once again failed to match last season's player-of-the-year exploits.

"Chelsea is now in a transition period ... to regain the loss terrain where Chelsea used to be," Hiddink said.

How Chelsea would relish the complete dominance of PSG. Sitting 23 points clear atop its league, the Qatar-owned French champions faced a rare test in west London.

Di Maria, who endured a miserable season at Manchester United before joining PSG last year, was a constant menace on his return to England. The Argentine tried to clip the ball past goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois after six minutes but Branislav Ivanovic cleared.

"He is able to change the tempo of play very quickly because he has excellent vision," Blanc said. "Chelsea never knew where he was but we always knew where we could find him with the ball."

Di Maria was the architect of the opener, releasing Ibrahimovic on the left flank. The forward slid the ball across the face of goal to the far post where Rabiot evaded Ivanovic and slotted in.

But Costa, who removed his protective face mask early on, made PSG regret branding him a "fraud" in a jocular pre-match Twitter video when he levelled in the 27th minute.

Thiago Motta conceded possession around half way line before Pedro Rodriguez laid the ball off to Costa. The Spain striker twisted past Thiago Silva before netting only his second European goal in two seasons at Chelsea.

The 27-year-old Costa had a hard low shot parried by Kevin Trapp before half time and he couldn't beat the goalkeeper again before limping off.

Instead, this was a night for a striker seven years his senior in the twilight of his career but still with the hunger for scoring.

Thiago Motta sent a diagonal pass to Di Maria on the left flank and the advancing winger then squared the ball across the penalty area. Ibrahimovic was primed to receive it, slipping his marker before netting at the far post.

"I don't think it will give him any more confidence," Blanc said. "He has plenty of that as it is."


- AP


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