Stuff that matters

Chelsea’s general manager Paul Green hailed Chelsea’s 1-0 win at Paris Saint-Germain and said it was “unthinkable” not so long ago that English teams would come to France and beat the top two sides, following Chelsea’s win and Arsenal’s 5-1 demolition of champions Lyon in the first round of group games in the Women’s Champions League.

“It shows how far the English league has come, that ourselves 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 but I do think it’s a really 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.”

Chelsea’s goalscorer, Millie Bright, echoed the sentiments of Green, who was filling in for the absent Emma Hayes who is recovering from an emergency hysterectomy.

“The WSL is the most competitive league out there,” she said. “We’ve said it for a while, it’s got some of the best players in it, and there’s no such thing as an easy game in the WSL – every single week, you’ve got to perform at the highest level and that pushes you to be a better team, and to be better individuals.”

Green added that the WSL was benefiting from “riding the crest of a wave” after England’s Euros win. “Players coming back into the club environments are bringing that positively with them,” he said. “But it’s also the quality in the league that means you need to be at your best every single week, for every game, instead of having a couple of good games a season which is maybe the case in a couple of leagues in Europe.”

The crowd may have been small at the 20,000 capacity Stade Jean-Bouin which sits in the shadows of PSG’s Parc des Princes, but it was vocal, with 800 PSG ultras, drums out, dancing and singing as one, with many shirtless despite the constant rain.

The PSG manager, Gérard Prêcheur, described the Champions League group stage tie with Chelsea as a “beautiful fixture” ahead of kick-off. “We do this job to play games like these,” he said. “We cannot wait to get started but we cannot rush anything. We have to prepare well, but it is true that it is a great fixture and this group stage format is magnificent to play in.”

The match action didn’t quite live up to the billing. Perhaps due to the conditions, neither team could find their rhythm in a scrappy and bitty first half, but Chelsea had the brighter of the few infrequent chances.

Just before the half-hour mark Chelsea made the breakthrough. Erin Cuthbert’s corner was cleared back to her on the left and the Scotland forward pinged it to the back post where Bright was waiting to side-foot in on the volley.

It was Bright’s third Champions League goal. This game was also the third meeting of the two teams in the Champions League, with Chelsea having played PSG over two legs of the quarter finals in 2018-19. Then, Hayes’s side were triumphant, beating the French side 2-0 at home before suffering a 2-1 defeat in the return fixture and progressing to the last-four on aggregate.

Last season, Chelsea failed to escape the “group of death” with Wolfsburg and Juventus progressing on the basis of head-to-head goal difference after all three teams finished on 11 points apiece.

Chelsea’s group is similarly intimidating this time round, with PSG and Real Madrid, who eliminated Manchester City in qualifying for the group stage, vying with the WSL champions for two places in the knockout rounds, and Albania’s Vllaznia completing the group lineup. Real defeated the Albanian side 2-0 earlier on Thursday.

After the break in the Stade Jean-Bouin, the narrative didn’t shift despite the home side trailing. It took until the 62nd minute for the French side to register a shot on target, and when it finally came it was tame, Kadidiatou Diani shot easily saved by Ann-Katrin Berger.

That would prove to be PSG’s only shot on target. For Chelsea, it was not pretty but it was job done, and with Vllaznia at home next Wednesday there is a chance for Hayes’s side to build some momentum in the competition.