Laurent Blanc revels in Champions League breakthrough
Paris Saint-Germain coach Laurent Blanc declared that his team had "joined the big boys" after their potentially transformative victory over Chelsea in the Champions League last 16.
London: Paris Saint-Germain coach Laurent Blanc declared that his team had "joined the big boys" after their potentially transformative victory over Chelsea in the Champions League last 16.
PSG overcame daunting odds at Stamford Bridge on Wednesday, losing Zlatan Ibrahimovic to a contentious first-half red card and twice falling behind, only to draw level on each occasion through centre-backs David Luiz, the former Chelsea player, and captain Thiago Silva.
Silva`s looping header, six minutes from the end of extra time, made the score 2-2 on the night and 3-3 on aggregate, taking PSG through on away goals, 11 months after they had lost to Chelsea by the same rule in the quarter-finals following another 3-3 draw.
"PSG really want to join the big boys and I think we did that tonight (Wednesday). I think the match will be a reference for the club for years to come," Blanc said.
"I know things go quickly. We`ll try to appreciate this victory, this qualification. Then there`ll be the draw for the quarter-finals and the pressure.
"We won`t forget what we`ve done here. We did something good, but we didn`t do something exceptional. We`re in the quarter-finals, so we`ve done something, but you have to keep things in perspective."
PSG`s qualification for the quarter-finals represented their first Champions League knockout-phase success against a European heavyweight since Qatar Sports Investment acquired the club in 2011 and president Nasser Al-Khelaifi said it was a breakthrough moment.
"It`s magnificent, historic for us," he told beIN Sports.
"Thank you to Laurent Blanc, thank you to the players. And thank you to the supporters. We felt like we were at home."In a spiky, ill-tempered match, an 81st-minute goal by Gary Cahill left Chelsea on the brink of the last eight, only for Luiz to equalise with an emphatic header five minutes later.
Silva conceded a penalty for handball that allowed Eden Hazard to restore Chelsea`s lead early in extra time, but then atoned with the goal that sent the French champions through.
Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho accepted Blanc`s assertion that the better team had won and the only sour points for the victors were Ibrahimovic`s dismissal and a booking for Marco Verratti that will keep him out of the first leg of the quarter-final.
Ibrahimovic was shown a straight red card in the 32nd minute by Dutch referee Bjorn Kuipers after catching Oscar in a 50-50 challenge and Blanc called on European governing body UEFA to rescind the Swede`s dismissal.
"There`s a committee that will convene to look at what happened and I hope they`re not too strict," he said. "I hope Ibra can be with us in the quarter-finals."
Mourinho, who coached Ibrahimovic at Inter Milan, echoed Blanc`s words about the sending-off, but complained -- with some justification -- that Diego Costa should have been awarded a first-half penalty for a foul by Edinson Cavani and that Luiz had perhaps been fortunate to avoid censure for an off-the-ball body-check on Costa.
"It was a clear penalty on Diego Costa and, once more, I think it`s a waste of time and money to have the officials on the side of the goal because normally they do nothing," he said.
"The David Luiz elbow I didn`t see, I confess. But when UEFA give him the man of the match, I have to believe there`s no elbow. I can`t believe UEFA would give man of the match to someone who made an aggression.
"Perhaps they cannot give us the penalty to go and take it now, but maybe they can do what is fair and suspend David and take Ibra into the quarter-finals, which maybe he deserves."
Urging his players to switch their attention to the Premier League title race, where they currently enjoy a five-point lead with a game in hand, Mourinho said: "We lost a competition and, at this moment, we have the Premier League to win and we`re in a good situation.
"There`s no time to cry."