New manager Graham Potter had a tense start with Chelsea as Noah Okafor canceled Raheem Sterling’s opener to carry the Blues to a 1-1 draw against RB Salzburg at Stamford Bridge.
The result would do little to relieve the pressure on Chelsea in the Champions League Group E, where they are still rooted at the foot of the four-team standings after playing two games with very little chance of progressing to the tournament’s knockout stages.
Chelsea opened their European crusade with a disappointing 1-0 loss to Dinamo Zagreb last week, prompting the sacking of Thomas Tuchel, as he paid the ultimate price for failing to share the new ownership’s long-term vision for Chelsea’s future.
Potter, who was enjoying his first taste of European high-level club competition, admitted he had never before attended a Champions League game during his official unveiling on Tuesday, let alone taking first place in the dugout during one.
Sterling scored the first goal of the Potter era to put Chelsea ahead in the 48th minute after a low cross from Mason Mount from the right, which Salzburg did not defend well.
The unmarked striker was given plenty of time and space to measure the shot, before he softly curved into the lower right corner from inside the 18-yard box – a move that would be admired by England manager Gareth Southgate, with Reece James also involved.
But Salzburg equalized 15 minutes from the end of the match through top scorer Okafor after Thiago Silva made a mistake in the intervention to make substitute Junior Adamu hit a dangerous low cross. Okafor then applied a finishing touch first with the help of a slight deviation from Cesar Azpilicueta.
Chelsea’s decline characteristic of the season is below par
Chelsea are back in action after the Premier League was suspended at the weekend due to the Queen’s death, but could not make up for last week’s devastating loss in Zagreb.
Before kick-off in west London, two Chelsea retirees laid wreaths on the pitch, while Potter emerged from the tunnel in a respectable black suit and tie and thanked the fans for the warm welcome, before the ground fell silent in memory of the Queen. .
Improved in their technique, the Blues can still rectify their situation to reach the Round of 32, but they will likely need to defeat Milan at home and away in their back-to-back matches with the Italians in October.
Both James and Sterling were sporadically effective in wide positions, but problems remained down the backbone of the team, revealing many of the same concerns that hampered performance under the term’s Tuchel.
In the frontal areas, Chelsea lacked the flexibility to create a one-man service for Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, who did little to influence the course of the match on his first home appearance.
Potter: pleased with the application; disappointing result
Chelsea manager Graham Potter said:
“Frustrated on just one point. I enjoyed how the guys did their job tonight. I thought we put Raheem in some good 1v1 positions. We responded well to the concession.
“But we needed a second goal and it didn’t come. We are disappointed on one point.
“They gave everything. I was very proud of the way they acted. It wasn’t easy for them either. A change of coach and everything that comes with that. They acted professionally, honestly and took responsibility. The effort there was 100 per cent. .
The Potter endures a careless beginning
Chelsea’s Graham Potter failed to win his first competitive game for a team for the first time in his managerial career, having won his first game as manager for Östersunds FK, Swansea City, Brighton and Hove Albion.
“I thought we put Raheem in some good positions and scored a good goal. We can improve too. But how the boys coped with the match, I’m really happy.
“Whatever you do, there are always pros and cons. We are at home, we wanted to be up front. It’s not the position we want to be in – it’s a tough group – but there is enough quality in the team and in the team we can respond.
“We understand the demands of this football club. I believe in the environment and the culture. But I understand that we have to win too. We are at the beginning of a process as a group of staff and players. I want to make this a competitive team and a team of proud supporters.”
Analysis: Different day, same problems
Laura Hunter from Sky Sports:
It is clear that Potter has inherited a group of disjointed and disenfranchised players.
From Thiago Silva’s rash defying isolated, almost non-existent characters to Havertz and Aubameyang, there’s a lot of work to be done.
A potter simply cannot wave a magic wand. If fans expected to understand what kind of team Chelsea would be under Thomas Tuchel’s successor – their performance against Salzburg did not provide enough answers.
Lots of people questioned, and checked, even Chelsea’s summer transfer policy – a policy that eschewed a recognizable No9 pursuit, but chased hard on the day of the 33-year-old Aubameyang’s signing deadline.
Maybe that was a meaningless blow? Time will tell.
Chelsea have kept Salzburg in their own half for extended periods, but at no time did you think the former Barcelona forward would make such a noticeable difference. His entries were lethargic, summed up by a superb first-half James shot that eluded any hint of a goal, as Aubameyang crossed the 18-yard line as the ball swung dangerously across the face of the goal.
She exposed one of Chelsea’s many flaws. Sterling has already raised his Champions League tally to 25 – the second-highest number of goals for any English player – but if Potter relied solely on cross-goals from wide strikers he would almost certainly remain undisturbed.
Chelsea are eager for a focal point and Aubameyang will be given a little precious time to impress if his form fails to inspire. There are ready-made alternatives waiting – expect to use it if it can’t hit the mark.
October 5: AC Milan (H) – The match starts at 8 pm
October 11: AC Milan (a) The match starts at 8 pm
October 25: RB Salzburg (A) – The match starts at 5.45 pm
November 2: Dinamo Zagreb (H) – The match starts at 8 pm
ChelseaPremier League meeting with Liverpoolwhich was originally scheduled for September 18, was Postponed as police resources are exhausted in the wake of the Queen’s death.
Instead, the Potter side will start operating on October 1st when they travel to Crystal Palace.