There was huge excitement in the UEFA Champions League on the evening of Tuesday 8 April 2014, as the first two teams, Chelsea and Real Madrid, booked themselves a place in the semi-finals, after entertaining second leg fixtures in England and Germany.
Chelsea 2-0 Paris Saint-Germain (agg 3-3 – Chelsea qualify on away goals rule)
Chelsea went into this home fixture at Stamford Bridge trailing 3-1 from the first leg, but with an improved Premier League performance behind them, and an important away goal on the board.
PSG set themselves up in a resilient style, but there was an occasional glimmer of hope for Chelsea in the opening minutes, particularly as they won a number of dangerous free-kicks around the PSG penalty area.
But it wasn’t until after the half hour mark that Chelsea grabbed their opening goal, and set about getting their comeback under way. The talented Hazard had been replaced earlier in the first half by Schürrle, who looked his usualy energetic self. It was the substitute who struck on 32 minutes, when a long throw from Branislav Ivanović on the right was flicked on by David Luiz, straight to the German’s feet. He hammered the ball home.
The teams came in at half time with Chelsea leading 1-0, despite the Blues threatening to add a second after their first, in a period where PSG wobbled substantially, but ultimately held firm.
Both sides knew one unreplied goal for Chelsea would be enough to see the hosts through with an away goal from leg one, but there was less fluency in the second period as the Parisian side regained their composure and, indeed, as the minutes ticked away, had a number of solid chances of their own with Chelsea chasing that vital goal.
It would be another substitute who would change the night, and cement himself a place in Chelsea hearts in the process, as Demba Ba, who replaced Frank Lampard on 66 minutes, found a deflected shot heading his way on the edge of the six yard box with three minutes remaining. Ba swung his long left leg as he slid towards the goal, and somehow – it wasn’t exactly pretty – smashed the ball into the top of the goal before racing to the corner flag to celebrate with all of his team mates. Even Jose Mourinho, the Chelsea manager, joined in the celebrations, whispering into the ears of his players what was, presumably, advise to sit on their slender lead for all they were worth.
Mourinho has never exited the Champions League at the quarter final stages, a record he kept despite some fierce PSG pressure in the final three minutes of normal time and four of stoppages which remained following Ba’s strike.
A most impressive and entertaining result for Chelsea, which suggests the kind of heart which saw them lift the tournament in 2012 remains within their squad.
Borussia Dortmund 2-0 Real Madrid (agg 2-3 – Real Madrid qualify)
Two first half goals from Marco Reus for Borussia Dortmund signalled that the German Bundesliga side were not just here to make up the numbers following their first leg 3-0 defeat, but Real Madrid regained their composure to run out 3-2 aggregate winners at the end of 90 minutes, in what was on paper a relatively even encounter.
Dortmund will rue having come so close, but did not produce enough clear-cut chances in the second half to trouble the visitors, who were without Cristiano Ronaldo and themselves looked a little short of fire power and motivation.
Real Madrid progress to the semi final stages, a record breaking 25th time.