SALZBURG, Austria – Chelsea beat Salzburg 2-1 on Tuesday night in Austria to confirm their place in the Champions League play-offs as Group E winners.

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Mateo Kovacic opened the scoring for the guests halfway through the first half, but Junior Adamu equalized just three minutes after the break. But Kai Havertz delivered a stunning win in the 64th minute, sending the Blues home with all three points, ahead of Group E and out of reach.

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Chelsea will face Dynamo Zagreb at Stamford Bridge a week later starting Wednesday, while Salzburg will end the Champions League group stage with a trip to Milan next week to determine who will follow the West London club in the 1/8 finals.

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JUMP ON: Player Ratings | Best/worst performers | Highlights and Notable Moments | Post match quotes | Key statistics | Upcoming matches


Fast reaction

1. Havertz’s spectacular player secures Chelsea a play-off berth

Havertz secured Chelsea’s place in the Champions League round of 16 with a stunning goal in a 2-1 Group E victory over Salzburg in Austria on Tuesday. The German striker, who scored the winning goals in the 2021 Champions League final and 2022 FIFA Club World Cup final, delivered another decisive blow for Chelsea after Salzburg threatened to close a first-half deficit to boost their hopes for qualification.

When Adamu canceled Kovacic’s first leg in the 23rd minute, equalizing in the 4th minute of the second half, Salzburg were more confident and looked to increase their unbeaten home record in all competitions to 41 games. But Havertz silenced the fans and secured Chelsea’s victory with a 20-yard left foot kick in the 64th minute that hit goalkeeper Philip Kohn under the crossbar.

If Chelsea were to lose to the Austrian champions, they would need to get a result at home against Dinamo Zagreb on matchday six to be sure of qualifying. But Havertz ended the prospect of a nervous final game with his goal, and also saw manager Graham Potter extend his unbeaten streak as Chelsea manager to nine games after replacing Thomas Tuchel in September.

– Report: Salzburg 1-2 Chelsea | Champions League table | Upcoming matches

2. Sterling continues to fight for influence

Earlier this summer, Chelsea signed a £47.5m signing from Manchester City’s Raheem Sterling, but the England forward saw another big game pass him by at Salzburg. The 27-year-old has only scored one goal in his last 10 games for the club and he didn’t look like he’d broken that fruitless streak as the Graham Potter team squandered several chances to win the game comfortably.

In this case, Sterling was forced to play left full-back and Potter opted to use a three-man defense in Austria. Wide play with heavy defensive responsibilities is not conducive to getting the most out of a player who has enjoyed his best form at City in a more advanced position or as a centre-forward under Josep Guardiola.

Potter clearly told Sterling to stay as wide as possible to stretch the field, and Christian Pulisic gave the same instructions on the right flank, but the tactical plan negated Sterling’s best qualities. Potter’s challenge is to find a way to get more out of one of his best players because if Chelsea are to compete for honors this season, Sterling needs to make a much bigger contribution.

3. Salzburg’s youth policy shines again

Salzburg is considered one of the best recruiting teams in Europe due to the ability of the Austrian champions to find young talent, develop them and then transfer those players to bigger clubs in more competitive leagues.

Their list of former players is very impressive, led, of course, by Erling Haaland, who scored on his Champions League debut as a teenager after moving from Molde. However, apart from Haaland, Salzburg has also set the likes of Sadio Mane, Dayot Upamecano, Takumi Minamino and Karim Adeyemi on the path to glory elsewhere.

Benjamin Sesko, the 19-year-old striker from Slovenia, is seen as the next big thing and was already preparing for a move to Red Bull partner club RB Leipzig, but coach Matthias Jaissle named him as a replacement due to the 21-year-old striker Adamu’s form. The Austria international scored eight goals in his last nine home matches, so he got the nod against Chelsea and paid his manager back by equalizing early in the second half. Adamu and Cesko are doomed to move to bigger clubs, while defender Strahinja Pavlovic and midfielder Luka Suchic are also making a big impression.

To highlight Salzburg’s focus on youngsters, their starting XI had the youngest average age of 22 years and 10 days in the Champions League since 2009. competition.


Player Ratings

Salzburg: Philip Kohn 9; Amar Dedic 6, Bernard 7, Strahinja Pavlovich 7, Maximilian Wober 7; Lukas Gurna Duat 6; Nicholas Seywald, 6, Luc Suchic, 8, Maurits Kiergaard, 7; Noy Okafor 6, Chukwubuke Adam 8
Subscriptions: Benjamin Sesko 7, Roko Simic 6, Andreas Ulmer 6

Chelsea: Kepa Arrizabalaga, 6; Trevo Chalobah, 6; Thiago Silva, 7; Mark Cucurella, 5; Christian Pulisic 5, Matthew Kovacic 7, Jorginho 6, Raheem Sterling 6; Conor Gallagher 6; Kai Havertz 7, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang
Subscriptions: Ruben Loftus-Cheek 6, Cesar Azpilicueta 6, Armando Broja 6, Hakim Ziyech 6, Mason Mount 6


Best and Worst Performers

BEST: Philipp Cohn, Salzburg The Salzburg goalkeeper withstood a blow to the head by Havertz in the second minute and another blow later in the first half to give the home side a world-class performance. Chelsea could have scored five or six if not for Cohn.

WORST: Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, Chelsea. The Chelsea striker has missed too many clear chances for a striker of his stature. Aubameyang was signed at the last minute in a panic in August and he is not the answer to the team’s goalscoring problems.


Highlights and Notable Moments

Potter flaunted his first exposure to the Champions League as Chelsea manager.


After the match: what coaches, players said

Gallagher on Kovacic’s goal: “It was a great finish, I couldn’t believe it to be honest. It was important to score the first goal, it helped us and gave us confidence in the game.”

Kovacic: “It’s nice to score a goal where I was born. My parents and my friends were here.”


Basic statistics (provided by Sportzshala Stats & Information)

– Chelsea have not lost a Champions League match, scoring their first goal since April 2014, when they lost 3-1 to Atlético Madrid in the semi-finals.

– Chelsea are unbeaten in 21 games in a row when Chalobah starts.


Next

Salzburg: The Red Bull-backed club are staying at home for their return to the Austrian Bundesliga game against TSV Hartberg on Saturday.

Chelsea: The Blues will return to England for a Premier League game on Saturday at the former home of not only Potter but Cucurella: Brighton & Hove Albion.