It was another UEFA Champions League victory over Chelsea but this time it felt more significant than the one 12 months ago, an irresistible sign that this Paris Saint-Germain side could indeed answer the post-match call from Zlatan Ibrahimović and take the next step to greatness.
Ibrahimović’s challenge to his team-mates after his show-stopping performance on another thrilling west London occasion was to use their 4-2 aggregate win to take them to the next level. “Today we did well, but let’s see what happens in the quarter-finals,” he said after the Ligue 1 club’s 2-1 second-leg triumph. “If we do well there, then it looks good.”
The Sweden captain believes Laurent Blanc’s men have to spread their wings on the European stage if they are to achieve broader status. “We are progressing, we are getting better and better,” he added. “The team is young and has not played together so long in comparison to other sides.
“In France we are doing the maximum we can do – we can’t do any better than that – but the Champions League is the next step for us. Today we did great, but can we repeat the good things we did against Chelsea? If we can then things are looking good.”
With a goal and an assist at Stamford Bridge to add to the free-kick he converted in Paris, Ibrahimović could feel well satisfied with his work over the two games. No more can the English newspapers claim that at the very highest level, when the challenge is at its most intense, Zlatan goes AWOL. “I feel good, but without my team-mates it would not have been possible,” he said of his towering display.
This was far from a one-man show, however, with Ángel Di María providing a significant contribution to each of the visitors’ goals. Blaise Matuidi and David Luiz highlighted the maturity of the collective, how their team stayed calm and solid after Diego Costa had answered Adrien Rabiot’s opener with an emphatic equaliser on the night.
“We played a great game,” said David Luiz . “We showed patience and experience and we waited for that second moment to kill the game. Zlatan? He did his job didn’t he? I am very happy for him because he is a class player and he gave an amazing performance.”
The former Chelsea defender refused to look too far ahead, but confirmed that Paris’ sights were fixed on the trophy this time round. “When you play for a big club you need to have ambition to be the best,” he answered. “We will keep our feet on the ground, show humility and we will try to win every match.”
Matuidi said that it was only one small staging post on the road to greater things. “We are aware of the work that lies ahead, but we will give everything to get to the semi-finals,” he explained. “We dream of the future but we are only thinking of the next game.
“We deserved this victory. We protected the ball well and had good possession. At 1-1 we did not shake but stayed calm when Chelsea were trying to put pressure on us. The second goal came as a relief for us and after that we could deploy our normal game.”