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Wednesday April 9, 2014 MYT 4:22:01 PM
Wednesday April 9, 2014 MYT 4:22:40 PM
by julien pretot
PARIS (Reuters) - Paris St Germain have invested heavily in a five-year project to win the Champions League but money alone could not buy the collective experience or right tactical choices to hold off a battle-hardened Chelsea in the quarter-finals.
A confident PSG carried a 3-1 home win into the return leg at Stamford Bridge on Tuesday but the French giants were outfoxed by Jose Mourinho's team as the 2012 Champions League winners prevailed 2-0 on the night to advance on away goals.
While Laurent Blanc's team had promised to stay true to their attacking philosophy, they were dominated in possession and despite a good start, were toothless up front in the absence of their injured talisman Zlatan Ibrahimovic.
Chelsea played with great intelligence and the patience of a side with belief in their own strengths, an inner trust drawn from four semi-final appearances in the seven previous seasons.
They refused to be unsettled by an early injury to Eden Hazard, who made way for Andre Schuerrle, with the German opening the scoring in the first half.
"Experience made the difference. Chelsea are more used to playing these games than we are," Blanc told reporters.
With the aggregate score at 3-2 in PSG's favour and 45 minutes remaining, the visitors had to choose between defending what they had or trying to score the goal that would have almost certainly been enough to ensure a passage through to the semi-finals.
Blanc was unable to make that choice.
"In the second half, with a one-goal advantage, we were in an awkward position," explained right back Christophe Jallet.
"Should we attack or stay in position? We allowed space between our lines and it became very complicated. We did not have our usual grip on the game."
In the absence of Ibrahimovic, Blanc opted to field Edinson Cavani up front and to put Lucas on the right wing, leaving out Javier Pastore, whose technical skills would have helped PSG retain the ball when Chelsea were looking to turn the game into an end-to-end contest.
Brazil forward Lucas, who has not scored in his last 28 games in all competitions, instead ran through the midfield with his head down, often missing the obvious pass near the box and ending up losing the ball.
Yet former national coach Blanc, whose tactical choices were questioned when France lost 2-0 to Spain in the Euro 2012 quarter-finals, left him on the pitch when he decided to send Pastore on after 73 minutes and took Ezequiel Lavezzi off.
With Cavani having an off day, PSG failed to score for the first time since last December and just like last year when they went out to Barcelona, were knocked out on the away goals rule in the last eight.
Demba Ba, the Senegalese striker born in the Paris suburbs, scooped in the winner in the 87th minute as PSG paid the price for their lack of ambition on the pitch.
"In the second half, we were pinned back in our half," Blanc admitted as his team only enjoyed 46 percent of possession over 90 minutes.
"I am very disappointed even if we have to admit Chelsea are much more experimented than us," PSG president Nasser al Khelaifi said.
"We were very close. We have not won this tie but we have gained experience for the future."
PSG have spent more than 200 million euros ($275.89 million) on transfers since being taken over by Qatar Sports Investments in 2012, with a five-year plan to win the Champions League.
They realised on Tuesday that it may take them a little longer. Chelsea, who were taken over by Russian billionaire Roman Abramovich in 2003, waited nine years to finally lift the trophy and they could soon be adding a second.
(Editing by John O'Brien)
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