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Soccer-Ba's turn to shine as never-say-die Chelsea prevail again

Reuters

(Fixes typo in Andre Schuerrle in para 17)

By Mike Collett

LONDON, April 9 (Reuters) - A week after bemoaning his lack of lethal strikers, Chelsea coach Jose Mourinho had all three of them on the pitch at the end of their 2-0 win over Paris St Germain with the least celebrated of the trio emerging as the ultimate hero.

Samuel Eto'o, Fernando Torres and Demba Ba had only scored 23 goals between them in 48 matches in all competitions this season before Tuesday's Champions League quarter-final second leg ended with Ba's late strike putting Chelsea in the semi-finals for the seventh time in 11 seasons.

"I wasn't out for revenge," said Ba, referring to Mourinho's comments of last week when he said he had "no real strikers."

He continued: "Maybe he (Mourinho) doesn't have the strikers he likes but I know that we have three great strikers and I think a lot of clubs would like to have them.

"I'm happy to have liberated us. I haven't been given much of chance this season, but I've taken this one."

Ba, the only Parisien on the pitch and a boyhood PSG fan, added: "It's the first time I've ever wanted PSG to lose, and it's me who scores the goal, luckily for Chelsea."

His effort, bundled home three minutes from time after PSG defender Maxwell deflected Cesar Azpilicueta's shot into his path, tied the scores at 3-3 on aggregate, giving Chelsea a memorable comeback victory on the away goals rule.

Ba, who has started just three matches for Chelsea this season and only scored five goals in his 23 appearances in all, earned a lasting place in Chelsea folklore for the goal that epitomised everything about the side's never-say-die spirit.

Two years ago, they became champions of Europe after Didier Drogba saved them from defeat in the final against Bayern Munich with an 88th minute headed equaliser before scoring the decisive goal in a penalty shootout.

Last season, they won the Europa League final when Branislav Ivanovic headed in a stoppage time winner to give them a 2-1 victory over Benfica in Amsterdam.

And the longer the edgy, tense match lasted on Tuesday, there was an air of inevitability that another Chelsea goal was on its way.

Ba, as he has done so often this season, started the match on the bench but replaced midfielder Frank Lampard in the 66th minute to join Eto'o in a two-pronged attack.

LAST ROLL

Mourinho then threw his last roll of the dice by introducing his under-performing 50 million pound ($83.75 million) man Torres with nine minutes to play and with the PSG defence creaking under pressure... eventually crumbling.

Mourinho, who has now won all nine quarter-finals he has contested in European competition raced down the touchline to urge his players to cut short their celebrations as they needed to concentrate for the final few minutes.

"It was not to celebrate," he said of a dash that evoked memories of his famous sprint at Old Trafford in 2004 when Porto scored a late equaliser to knock out Manchester United on aggregate.

"It was to tell the players how to play in the last few minutes. I did not want them to think the game was over."

Andre Schuerrle, who replaced the injured Eden Hazard early in the match, put Chelsea ahead when he was left unmarked in the centre of the penalty area after 32 minutes and swept the ball home to give Chelsea renewed hope.

PSG dominated the opening spell but with the injured Zlatan Ibrahimovic missing, they lacked a cutting edge up front and when they finally did create an opening, Edinson Cavani missed two chances, lashing one fierce drive over the bar when he should have scored.

But it was not only in attack that Chelsea's battling qualities earned them their victory, their defence kept a clean sheet at Stamford Bridge for the ninth successive match in all competitions.

Last week, goalkeeper Petr Cech was at fault for allowing Javier Pastore to squeeze a late shot past him on his near post that gave PSG their 3-1 first leg lead.

On Tuesday, Cech made amends for that mistake with a save seconds from the end at his near post from PSG substitute Marquinhos.

"We don't mind who we face in the semi-finals" said Mourinho afterwards. The one thing that the other semi-finalists have in common is that they all probably want to avoid Chelsea in Friday's draw.

($1 = 0.5970 pounds) (Editing by John O'Brien)

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