PARIS, February 18- Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho admitted his side were fortunate to come away with a draw in the first leg of their Champions League last-16 tie with Paris Saint-Germain on Tuesday as he hailed goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois.
PSG had the better of the game but only had a second-half Edinson Cavani goal to show for their efforts, with Courtois producing half a dozen vital saves to help Chelsea claim a 1-1 draw in the French capital.
As a result, Branislav Ivanovic’s precious away goal in the first half — from Chelsea’s only chance of the game — gives the Premier League leaders the upper hand going into the second leg at Stamford Bridge on March 11.
“I think the first half was our half. Paris gave us the ball, played defensively with a very low block. They never put pressure on us and we were very comfortable, moving the ball, letting the clock tick and never having problems to control the game,” Mourinho said.
“The second half was different. They were very direct and it was their half. I think 1-1 reflects one half for Chelsea, one half for Paris, but if you go to chances created and the goalkeepers’ performances we have to be honest and say they had more than us, so if somebody was closer to winning the game it was Paris not Chelsea.
“The advantage is minimal. Now everything is decided at Stamford Bridge and not in two matches. They are a fantastic team and we did ok.”
Courtois was brought back into the Chelsea side in place of Petr Cech and displayed exactly why he is seen as one of the finest goalkeepers in the world with a string of saves, including one from Zlatan Ibrahimovic in injury time.
“If football was nine outfield players plus two goalkeepers we would give no chance to anyone. We would be absolutely phenomenal because they are both phenomenal,” said Mourinho of the duo, before highlighting defender Ivanovic’s ability to pop up with crucial goals in big games.
“‘Iva’ has this feeling in big occasions. It looks like he chooses his moments, to win against Liverpool (in the League Cup semi-final), to score here, in the Europa League final (against Benfica in 2013). He chooses the right moment to do it.”
– Patched-up team –
With time to prepare for the second leg, Chelsea’s next game is against Burnley in the Premier League on Saturday, when Mourinho may decide to rotate his squad after admitting that several players had not trained in the build-up to the Paris clash.
The Portuguese coach said Eden Hazard, Willian, Oscar and Ivanovic had all been absent from the training ground while Cesc Fabregas had been “three days in bed with high temperatures.”
PSG coach Laurent Blanc was himself missing several players due to injury but was pleased with the performance of David Luiz in a holding midfield role against his old club and with the overall display of his team, despite the result.
“The score is not favourable to us, but I’m very happy with my team. There are lots of very satisfying things but the score is what counts at the end so the return match will be complicated,” he said.
Paris won 3-1 at home to Chelsea in the quarter-finals last season before losing 2-0 in the return to go out on away goals.
“I would have preferred us to win the game 3-1. I think our match was better than last year. I think Chelsea hardly existed in an attacking sense.
“Their only shot on target unfortunately for us was the goal we conceded but after that we gave them practically nothing,” added Blanc.
“We were up against a great goalkeeper as well, let’s not forget. The result could have been better but the match was very good.
“Chelsea have a slight advantage, especially because they are at home.
“With our attacking qualities we are capable of scoring practically anywhere in Europe. We didn’t do it last year but have to this time.”