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Ibrahimovic fires PSG past Chelsea

Ibrahimovic fires PSG past Chelsea

PARIS: Zlatan Ibrahimovic demonstrated his enduring attacking threat on Wednesday when he scored one and created another as Paris St Germain beat Chelsea 2-1 to knock them out of the Champions League for the second successive season.

PSG’s victory at Stamford Bridge after their 2-1 first-leg win in Paris put Laurent Blanc’s team into the last eight for the fourth successive season 4-2 on aggregate.

In Wednesday’s other game, Nicolas Gaitan and Talisca scored late goals as Benfica came from behind to beat Zenit St Petersburg 2-1 in Russia to reach the quarter-finals 3-1 on aggregate, joining Real Madrid and VfL Wolfsburg who won on Tuesday.

A composed display built on superb passing by PSG outclassed Chelsea and confirmed the runaway Ligue 1 leaders as one of the favourites to win this season’s premier European club competition.

PSG went ahead in the 16th minute when Angel Di Maria found Ibrahimovic, sent off when the sides clashed at the same stage a year ago, wide on the right.

The 34-year-old Swedish striker’s cross eluded the defence for Adrian Rabiot to tap in, giving Thibaut Courtois no chance.

But Chelsea, without injured skipper John Terry at the back, recovered with neat moves of their own and equalised with a superbly constructed goal when Diego Costa checked past Thiago Silva to fire wide of Kevin Trapp after 27 minutes.

But Costa was forced off on the hour and Chelsea’s hopes were deflated when Ibrahimovic volleyed home Di Maria’s cross from close range after 67 minutes.

For the 34-year-old Sweden striker it was a timely goal with his PSG contract expiring at the end of the season while still — like his club — chasing a first Champions League title.

“They were letting us control the game,” said Ibrahimovic. “We are happy at the moment, but still not satisfied.”

Chelsea, meanwhile, were left to contemplate a first season without Champions League football since 2002-03 as they languish in 10th place in the Premier League after a feeble title defence.

At the Petrovsky Stadium, Benfica — helped by an excellent Champions League debut from goalkeeper Ederson — clung on desperately then scored two late goals to progressed to the last eight for the first time since 2012, when they also eliminated Zenit at this stage.

Trailing 1-0 from last month’s first leg, Zenit levelled the tie when Hulk opened the scoring on the night in the 69th minute with a controversial goal, heading home Yuri Zhirkov’s cross.

The Russian champions were threatening a second against Benfica’s makeshift defence when Raul Jimenez’s curled volley was tipped onto the bar by goalkeeper Yuri Lodygin and fell perfectly for Gaitan’s header with five minutes to go.

With the Russians pushing forward desperately, Benfica made it 3-1 on aggregate with the last kick of the game when Talisca hit a half-volley from inside the box in the 96th.

Published in Dawn, March 11th, 2016

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