Thibaut Courtois was the hero in Charlotte, scoring the winning penalty and saving two of PSG’s in the shoot-out following an exciting 1-1 draw in normal time.
The goalkeeper kept out spot-kicks from Jean-Christophe Bahebeck and Thiago Silva before blasting the 14th and final penalty into the top corner, handing the English Champions the victory against the French champions.
In normal time it was Victor Moses who cancelled out Zlatan Ibrahimovic’s opener. The Swede fired home a rebound midway through a first half mostly dominated by the Parisians.
Chelsea were much improved after the break and deservedly levelled when Cesc Fabregas expertly picked out a fine Moses run, whose subsequent close-range volley was crisp and clinical. Falcao then came on for his first appearance in a Chelsea shirt and impressed. He was also one of six Chelsea players to score their penalty having stepped up first.
The starting line-up included the back four that began so many games together last season, and behind them, as Jose Mourinho had promised, was Begovic. Cesar Azpilicueta completed 90 minutes for the second game running. As in New Jersey, Moses began out wide, while there were first starts of the summer for Nemanja Matic, Eden Hazard and Diego Costa.
PSG’s team had plenty of familiar faces, none more so than David Luiz. Ibrahimovic captained.
PSG had two penalty appeals waved away in 30 seconds after Cesar Azpilicueta became the game’s first booking, and with the Blues seemingly still rattled at the back Verratti ghosted in unmarked but scooped an impudent effort wide.
The French side’s good period continued when Augustin stole a march on Ivanovic behind our defence. There he went eye to eye with Begovic, who had shown another important goalkeeping attribute by racing off his line alert to the danger. The Bosnian’s big frame blocked the shot.
He had one more bit of work to do before the interval, stretching low to his left to divert a Moura daisy cutter wide of the post.
Three fresh Chelsea faces came out for the second half, and one, Begovic’s replacement Courtois, was immediately in the action, gathering a shot from PSG sub Thiago Motta at the second attempt. Kurt Zouma and Ramires were the other newcomers.
The occasionally fractious nature of the game continued when Adrien Rabiot and Aurier went into the book for bad tackles on Hazard and Diego Costa respectively. The striker pounced on a loose Paris pass and picked out Fabregas whose shot was blocked; Moses following up fired wide.
Those same two players linked up to perfection moments later, however. It was Fabregas with the cross, perfectly weighted, and Moses with the movement and confident first-time volleyed finish that brought the equaliser. The winger’s celebration was as spectacular as the link-up play that preceded it!
Five minutes later the Chelsea supporters in the Bank of America Stadium had reason to roar almost as loudly as they did for the goal when Falcao was introduced.
The Colombian was immediately involved, impressively winning possession back and finding fellow sub Loic Remy. His shot was low and hard and needed saving. Not long after, with Chelsea now well on top and looking dangerous with every attack, Falcao had an effort of his own blocked. The chance was created thanks to his good movement in the box.
Two other South Americans introduced by Mourinho then linked up to good effect as Oscar from deep picked out Juan Cuadrado’s penetrative run. He opted not to shoot having raced clear and the opportunity passed.
Penalties loomed. The closest either side came to preventing them was in stoppage time when PSG’s Christopher Nkunku stung Courtois’ palms with a long-ranger. But penalties it was.
Falcao and Azpilicueta got Chelsea up and running confidently but with PSG scoring their first three spot-kicks Cuadrado’s subsequent miss could have proved decisive.
Instead Courtois denied Bahebeck and so on the shoot-out went. Five more penalties – including Remy, Oscar and Willian for Chelsea – were scored, before Courtois seized the initiative. First he kept out Thiago Silva’s effort with ease, then smashed his own shot into the roof of the net, as though taking a goal-kick. It was an emphatic end to an enjoyable encounter.