Chelsea interim boss Guus Hiddink bemoaned the lack of resources at his disposal after his side were dumped out of the Champions League at the last-16 stage by big-spending Paris Saint-Germain for the second season running last night.
Enigmatic forward Zlatan Ibrahimovic secured victory on the night for French champions PSG after fiery frontman Diego Costa had given Chelsea renewed hope by cancelling out Adrien Rabiot’s opener.
Barring a dramatic sequence of Premier League results, Chelsea will be without Champions League football next term for the first time since the 2002-03 season, a blow which is set to cost the club at least £40m.
“You saw a little bit of difference between the two squads and the two teams when they have to make changes and [Edinson] Cavani comes in and other big players are coming in,” said Hiddink.
“With all respect, and I like to bring through young guys, but it is different when you have to bring on young guys rather than experienced players. But nevertheless we lost to a very good team, I must say.”
Chelsea’s sole hope of rescuing some pride from a turbulent campaign now rests with the FA Cup and Saturday’s quarter-final clash at Everton, for which Costa is set to be an injury doubt after a recurrence of a tendon problem. Playmaker Eden Hazard also limped off in the second half.
“We knew he [Costa] wasn’t totally fit but he desperately wanted to play and I must respect that,” added Hiddink. “I hope it will not be a long-term injury for Diego. It may have been better if he had not have started but he wanted to play.”
PSG flew out the blocks and delivered a hammer blow to Chelsea in the 16th minute as Ibrahimovic’s low centre was converted at the far post by Raboit, who was only playing due to Marco Verratti’s injury.
Chelsea roared back into contention shortly before the half-hour mark as Costa deceived Brazil defender Thiago Silva by feigning to shoot, and then lashed a controlled left-footed effort beyond PSG goalkeeper Kevin Trapp.
But the Parisians applied the final nail to Chelsea’s Champions League coffin this season midway through the second period as Ibrahimovic side-footed home former Manchester United winger Angel di Maria’s sumptuous cross.