Cavani's shot at redemption
PARIS Saint-Germain coach Laurent Blanc heaped praise on Edinson Cavani after the Uruguayan played the role of super-sub to give his side a 2-1 victory against Chelsea in their Champions League last 16, first leg, at home.
Cavani replaced Lucas in the 74th minute of Tuesday's game at the Parc des Princes.
Four minutes later, he beat Thibaut Courtois with a first-time finish from an Angel di Maria assist to ensure the French champions will take a lead to London for the second leg next month.
It was just his second goal of the year after a difficult spell which has seen the player - signed for a French record transfer fee of 64 million euros (S$101 million) from Napoli - lose his place as a regular starter.
"Whoever got the second goal I would have been happy and I am happy for Edi.
"He's a boy who scores goals - we doubt his goal-scoring talents often and then he pops up and shows he can put the ball in the net at any time," said Blanc.
"He has gone through a very difficult time but I hope the fact he got the goal will be good for him and the team."
Several fine saves by Courtois in the second half thwarted PSG for long spells until Cavani's winner. Chelsea will now need to score at Stamford Bridge in the return on March 9 if they are to stand a chance of going through.
However, away goals have decided the meetings of these clubs in the last two seasons, with Chelsea advancing to last year's quarter-finals and Paris going through in the last 16 a year ago despite being held 1-1 at home in the first leg.
"The big regret for me is that we lost the goal just before half-time," said Blanc. "It is not a very big advantage but, in terms of the football we played, it's very satisfying."
PSG kept up their impressive record this season, which now reads just one defeat in 40 matches in all competitions, with that loss coming away to Real Madrid.
In contrast, this was a first defeat for Chelsea in 13 matches since the sacking of Jose Mourinho in December, but their interim coach Guus Hiddink remains upbeat about their chances in the return.
"Of course, a defeat is never a good or nice feeling but you've to consider it's a two-leg game and scoring away is always important," said Hiddink, who came to Paris with a reorganised defence in the absence of injured captain John Terry.
" I am never happy with a loss but it's not a dramatic loss."
The veteran Dutchman, who admitted Terry was a doubt for this weekend's FA Cup fifth-round tie against Manchester City, said it was still impossible to name a favourite to go through to the last eight.
"I think it's 50-50 still. Our opponents are a very strong team and that's why I think our performance was very good.
"Everyone could see this PSG likes to play football. They are very smart and you must be very alert...
"They have a nose for creating danger."
Meanwhile, in-form striker Jonas headed a dramatic injury-time winner for Benfica as the Portuguese champions beat 10-man Zenit St Petersburg 1-0 in the first leg of their Champions League last-16 tie on Tuesday.