LONDON – Chelsea kept their Champions League hopes alive with a 3-0 win over AC Milan at Stamford Bridge on Wednesday.
Wesley Fofana opened Chelsea’s scoring with a first-half goal in the 24th minute, but was forced to leave 14 minutes later due to injury. Milan had periods of possession but it was Chelsea who took charge in the second half with goals from Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Rhys James.
This allowed Graham Potter to clear the bench and enjoy his first Champions League win under Chelsea, but more importantly, it was their first competitive win this season that puts them in contention for a play-off spot.
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1. Chelsea played at the start of the Potter era
Potter did not have much chance to gain a foothold at Chelsea. A 1-0 loss to Dinamo Zagreb in the first leg of the season in the Champions League, which turned out to be Thomas Tuchel’s last at the club, pushed Chelsea into the background. In Potter’s first match in charge, they managed a 1-1 draw with Salzburg at Stamford Bridge, which meant that today’s victory was a must for Potter to lose, leaving their Champions League hopes hanging in the balance and dependent on others. results.
But Potter’s Chelsea managed. It was by far their best performance of the three during his tenure as they pressed and pulled Milan all over the field. While the Serie A champions had good chances, Chelsea were in control for most of the match and you can see the team becoming more and more like a Potter-led group. It’s a philosophy based on overloading and attacking at the right time at a fast pace. This group is perfect for the likes of James, Sterling and Aubameyang.
Two central midfielders Ruben Loftus-Cheek and Mateo Kovacic played well in pairs, swapping those who go forward and who stay behind. And behind was a great veteran Thiago Silva. It was his trio of headers from successive first-half set pieces that set off an eventual scrimmage, allowing Fofana to score his first goal for the club and Chelsea’s first.
And importantly, Kepa Arrizabalaga kept Chelsea’s goal to zero. With Edouard Mendy back in shape having missed Potter’s first two matches, it was interesting to see who started and it was Kepa who was so often the second choice under Tuchel. Whenever Kepa was approached, he did what was necessary.
2. Sterling and Aubameyang shine on the front lines despite Mount’s disappointment
The front trio of Chelsea played against Milan. While Mason Mount hasn’t scored yet this season, you can’t imagine Potter turning things around much after seeing gel front triples like he did on Wednesday night.
Aubameyang showed his best performance in a Chelsea shirt in his third appearance, as his movements consistently put the Milan defense out of position. He scored his second goal in as many games, neatly finishing James’ cross in the second half.
Elsewhere, Sterling and James work brilliantly on Chelsea’s right flank, often overlapping. It was thanks to his transfer that James finished confidently from close range and became the third for Chelsea. The mid-term picture on the other flank is still a bit mixed, with Mark Cucurella on the bench and Chelsea having rich attacking talent, but Mount and Ben Chilwell matched up well with Milan.
One of Potter’s first major tasks will be to regain Mount’s confidence. Mount will be desperate to succeed this season at Chelsea, but it’s not for lack of trying. He had a good shot in the first half and another try – a neat trick – was ruled out for offside.
3. Leao proves why he is a key Milan player amid transfer links
Chelsea made inquiries about AC Milan striker Rafael Leao over the summer and you can see why he is one of the most sought-after talents in Europe. He has had moments of breathtaking skill, but he is much more than just a collection of tricks. His movements make him so hard to catch – twice in the first half he slipped across half of southwest London into the Chelsea penalty area. A second shot past Rhys James – no small feat – saw Charles de Ketelare parry Kepa’s shot and give Rade Krunic a great chance, but he couldn’t convert from eight yards due to a gaping net half the time. He also had one eye-catching dart in the second half to put Thiago Silva behind, but his pass attempt to Olivier Giroud was intercepted.
Of course, for fans of Serie A and Milan, the sight of Leao dancing through the defense is nothing new. He was exceptional for the Pioli team. He was instrumental in winning the Scudetto last season and already has four goals and four assists in seven Serie A matches this season. But Leão’s ability was on display and if the Premier League is the ultimate destination for the 23-year-old Portuguese striker, then it was a superb audition.
While Leao was in the spotlight, attention was also on the return of Fikayo Tomori. He was a young player at Chelsea but left the club for AC Milan in 2021 and has established himself as an indispensable part of their squad. He played well on his return to Stamford Bridge and was certainly one of Milan’s most impressive players that evening, but will be disappointed that he couldn’t deflect a cross from James on Aubameyang’s goal.
Chelsea: Kepa 7, Koulibaly 7, Thiago Silva 8, Fofana 7, James 8, Chilwell 7, Loftus-Cheek 8, Kovacic 7, Mount 7, Sterling 7, Aubameyang 8
Subscriptions: Chalobah 7, Gallagher 7, Jorginho 6, Brocha 6, Havertz 7
Milan: Tatarusanu 6, Dest 5, Kalulu 6, Tomori 6, Ballo Touré 6, Tonali 5, Bennacer 6, De Ketelare 5, Rafael Leao 6, Krunic 5, Giroux 5
Subscriptions: Rebic 5, Gabbia 6, Origi 5, Pogeba 5, Brahim Diaz 5
Best and Worst Performers
BEST: Thiago Silva, Chelsea.
Aubameyang, Sterling, James and Loftus-Cheek played well, but the Brazilian defender was great defensively. The 38-year-old was the first Chelsea player to really get close to Leão and it was his flurry of first-half headers that gave Fofana the opportunity to score his first goal. He was great.
WORST: Rade Krunic, AC Milan.
There are several Milan candidates here, but Krunic really struggled. Ben Chilwell silenced him and Krunic missed Milan’s best chance of the match at half-time as he failed to convert from a few metres.
Highlights and Notable Moments
It had to be him! Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang frequents his old club AC Milan. 👻
Assistant to Rhys James. 🥶 pic.twitter.com/2NxXo4RwLD
– CBS Sports Golazo ⚽️ (@CBSSportsGolazo) October 5, 2022
An accurate cross from Rhys James gave Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang his first Champions League goal in nearly five years.
KEPA HOLDS CHELSEA FORWARD RIGHT IN THE BREAK! 🛑 pic.twitter.com/nlIlp89AcD
– CBS Sports Golazo ⚽️ (@CBSSportsGolazo) October 5, 2022
Kepa’s key save right before half-time would change the game’s dynamics if the ball went into the net.
After the match: what coaches, players said
Chelsea manager Graham Potter: “I am delighted with the game and the attitude towards the best opponents. I thought we should have responded well and we did. We also had to suffer, and that’s good.
Chelsea – Milan is a fantastic football match and I’m grateful to be in it, but winning this match is great. We need to recover and go out again at the weekend.”
Potter on Wesley Fofan’s injury: “We don’t know yet. This is the only disappointing event of the evening. He needs to take a picture tomorrow, and fingers crossed. .”
Milan head coach Stefano Pioli: “We could have played better, it is clear that our opponents played at a very, very high level, but our accuracy was not what it should have been. After a couple of minutes, we started doing things we shouldn’t have done. do, and our opponents could quickly use the space behind us.
“It was not a good evening, this is just an episode. We were not dangerous at all and did little in front of the opponent’s goal. Today was not our day. We knew it was going to be a tough game, but mentally we didn’t play as a team.”
Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang of Chelsea in an interview with BT Sport: “It was not an easy game. They played well in the first half. Then we kept the intensity high. We were sure.”
Key statistics (provided by Sportzshala Stats & Information)
– Despite his time at Arsenal and Barcelona, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang scored his first Champions League goal since he scored a brace against Real Madrid on 6 December 2017 while playing for Borussia Dortmund.
– Until Wednesday evening, Milan had never lost a Champions League group stage match by 3+ goals. They have lost by that margin five times in the playoffs.
Chelsea: Back to the Premier League game, Wolverhampton Wanderers will arrive on Saturday and then travel to the San Siro against AC Milan the following Tuesday.
Milan: A couple of big home fixtures are on the horizon as Serie A rivals Juventus play on Saturday ahead of Chelsea’s visit on Tuesday.