LONDON (Reuters) - Zlatan Ibrahimovic left Stamford Bridge last year under a cloud after his sending-off almost cost Paris St Germain their place in the Champions League.
He walked out of Chelsea’s stadium a hero on Wednesday, however, after scoring one goal and setting up another as the French champions knocked their English counterparts out of the Champions League 4-2 on aggregate.
The 34-year-old Swedish striker, who also scored in the first leg in Paris, gave Chelsea’s defence the slip in the 16th minute to provide a cross for Adrian Rabiot to open the scoring.
Then, in the 67th minute, with the scores level at 1-1 and PSG ahead 3-2 on aggregate, Ibrahimovic volleyed home from a cross by Angel di Maria to kill off a Chelsea fightback and put PSG’s place in the quarter finals beyond doubt.
“I was born old but I feel young. I get younger as I go on and I am very happy young man tonight,” the giant pony-tailed striker told reporters.
“It is a very different feeling to last year. This is not revenge, it is success, a very sweet success against a very tough opponent.”
PSG coach Laurent Blanc said Ibrahimovic had been performing well in the French League this season but he had not managed to quieten his critics until now.
“You guy always had your doubts because he was playing in Ligue 1, you asked if he was able to give a performance like that in the Champions League,” Blanc said.
“He gave us his answer tonight.”
“It won’t necessarily give him confidence because he has enormous self-confidence, but he scored the decisive goal and made another and this performance will do him good,” Blanc said.
“We will get the benefit of that, me as coach, the players and the club.”
Defeated Chelsea coach Guus Hiddink paid tribute to Ibrahimovic too, saying his physical and mental strength as well as his tactical sense meant the striker would be in demand if PSG do not renew his contract at the end of this season.
“He’s not the youngest but even at his age, for a footballer he’s doing well,” Hiddink said.
“He can adapt himself with his personality to any league in the world.”
Additional reporting by Mike Collett, editing by Ed Osmond