Chelsea’s Champions League hopes were ended by Paris St-Germain at the last-16 stage once more as Zlatan Ibrahimovic inspired the French champions to victory at Stamford Bridge last Wednesday night.
PSG built on their 2-1 lead from the first leg when Ibrahimovic crossed perfectly for Adrien Rabiot to score from close range after 16 minutes.
Diego Costa’s smart finish put Chelsea level on the night before half-time, but his departure through injury on the hour and Ibrahimovic’s simple finish from Angel di Maria’s delivery seven minutes later sent PSG into the last eight.
The visitors, who knocked Chelsea out on away goals at this stage last season, ended the night in total control.
Chelsea – 10th in the Premier League – now faces the prospect of being without European football next season, with Costa and Eden Hazard limping off injured before Saturday’s FA Cup quarter-final at Everton.
Roman Abramovich took control of Chelsea in July 2003 – two months after a final-day victory over Liverpool secured a place in the Champions League.
Since then, the Blues’ Russian owner has never been deprived of a place in Europe’s elite competition – the title he made his priority before finally winning it against Bayern Munich on penalties in their own Allianz Arena in 2012.
Now, barring the most unlikely circumstances, it will be Europa League at best next season as they are currently 10 points off fourth-placed Manchester City, having played a game more.
It means when Abramovich appoints his next manager, which looks increasingly likely to be Italy coach Antonio Conte, it will be a rebuilding job with Chelsea on the outside of Europe’s top table looking in.
Chelsea’s new man can expect heavy financial backing after two successive exits at the last-16 stage, followed by the ignominy of not qualifying at all.
With captain John Terry looking likely to leave and new faces brought in, the summer could signal a fresh start for the Abramovich era after this defeat.
PSG’s Twitter account created plenty of pre-match headlines by mischievously labelling Chelsea striker Costa a “fraud”.
It may have been an attempt to get under the combustible Brazil international’s skin – but it did anything but as he looked the real deal before he succumbed to injury on the hour.
The 27-year-old was a threat throughout, bringing a fine early save from PSG keeper Kevin Trapp and scoring the goal that gave Chelsea some hope before Ibrahimovic snuffed it out and was a threat all night.
As Chelsea regroup and try to salvage something from the chaos of a season that saw Jose Mourinho sacked as manager seven months after winning the Premier League title, the sight of Costa collapsing to the floor before being helped off is a serious worry for interim boss Guus Hiddink.
Costa’s departure, quickly followed by Ibrahimovic’s close-range strike, was the death knell for Chelsea.
They now have a vital FA Cup tie at Everton on Saturday and this is now the only trophy in their sights.
If Chelsea is to fashion success from this campaign, it will need Costa available for as many games as possible.
PSG’s second successive Champions League win over Chelsea offers further evidence of a new order in European football – one which the reigning Premier League champions are not currently part of.
When PSG were bought by Qatari owners in 2011, the Stamford Bridge club represented the model they would have had in mind as they mapped out their plans for supremacy.
Champions League results in recent seasons suggest they have achieved the goal of overtaking Chelsea. They lost to the Blues on away goals in the 2014 quarter-final but reversed the result at the last-16 stage last season.