The second night of Champions League action saw Chelsea travel to Paris for a highly anticipated encounter against PSG. They edged to a 1-0 victory thanks to a first half goal from Millie Bright, completing a successful week for English teams in France.
Paul Green, Chelsea’s General Manager, thought it showed the progress of both sides. “I think it shows how far the English league has come, that we and Arsenal have come to the top two teams in France and got two victories,” he said. “Yes, English teams have won in these last two evenings but there’s a long way to go in the groups and a long way to go in the competition. I do think it’s a positive thing for the English league and does show how far it’s come when in years gone by it was probably unthinkable that English teams would come to France and win these types of games.”
It was the first time the Barclays WSL champions have featured in the competitions since crashing out to Wolfsburg at the group stage last Christmas. Redemption was on the mind and with the squad additions over the summer, the Blues ambitions to lift the one trophy that has eluded them are clear to see.
The Stade Jean Bouin, the baby sister the famous Parc des Princes, is an eye-catching piece of architecture that sits in its shadows. Yet the smaller environment allowed the continuous chants and drumming of the loyal PSG ultras reverberate around the stadium from beginning to end.
Emma Hayes’ side arrived in the French capital city on the back of a solid victory over Everton at the weekend. Their influential manager was still absent, recovering from an emergency hysterectomy a couple of weeks back, so Assistant Manager Denise Reddy and Green remained in charge of game day proceedings. With Fran Kirby absent through illness, Niamh Charles took up a place in the forward line, with Maren Mjelde coming in to offer experience and stability at the back.
The nerves of the two sides were palpable as the game kicked off. Neither were able to stamp their mark on the game in the early stages with much of the play happening in the middle of the park. It was Chelsea who perhaps started with more purpose despite the hosts edging the possession stats.
They produced the first clear-cut attempt on goal when Sam Kerr found herself in a rare bit of space inside the penalty area. Sarah Bouhaddi in the PSG goal rushed out to make a smart block off the Australian’s fierce shot. Guro Reiten also found herself in space to the left of the box but turned her shot over the bar.
The all-important breakthrough came for the visitors with half an hour played. An Erin Cuthbert corner found Millie Bright free at the far post. Deftly opening her boot, Chelsea’s imperious defender produced a sublime side-footed volley before wheeling away in celebration.
PSG looked for an immediate response after slick build-up play involving Laurina Fazer, Jackie Groenen and Karchaoui. The subsequent corner forced an important finger-tipped intervention from Ann-Katrin Berger, until that point enjoying a quiet life in the Chelsea goal. It was the highlight of a disappointing half from the French who had managed only one shot on goal, none on target.
The second half was played at a slightly higher pace as PSG searched for an equaliser. They had an early moment to do so when Fazer found space inside the box but looped her half-volley over the bar. Meanwhile, Chelsea still threatened. Kerr had a snapped effort from distance saved before Cuthbert’s corner was flicked wide of Bouhaddi’s post.
As the game became more transitional, Chelsea had to sit deeper to absorb some of the increased pressure. There were glimmers that the hosts were clicking into the gear, but they ended up producing little of note. Chelsea remained resolute to return home safe in the knowledge that their most recent attempt at the Champions League has begun on the right foot.