Graham Potter’s debut for Chelsea ended in a 1-1 draw with RB Salzburg as the Blues slipped to the foot of Group E. for the Champions League.
Raheem Sterling’s devious goal should have given his new coach Potter a head start at Stamford Bridge in the Champions League and Blues bracket.
But a mistake from Thiago Silva opened the door for Noah Okafor to snatch the equalizer for Salzburg with a great finish to rule on a counter-attack.
Chelsea are back in action after the Premier League was suspended at the weekend due to the Queen’s death, but the Blues were unable to make up for last week’s 1-0 Champions League loss to Dinamo Zagreb.
Potter used a range of formations in Chelsea’s shape-shifting squad, but 37-year-old Brazilian Silva has always appeared under duress at the back of that system.
The defender conjured up several manly tackles only to be ashamed to complete the slip tackle – allowing Salzburg to steal and secure the equaliser.
One point left Chelsea from two Potter’s men’s games at the bottom of Group E, with Milan leading by four points.
The Blues can still rectify their situation and reach the knockout stages, but they will likely need to defeat Milan on home and away in their back-to-back matches with the Italians in October.
Chelsea sacked Thomas Tuchel last week with new owners Todd Boehli and Baghdad Eghbali to appoint a new director at Potter that they believe will operate in tandem with their long-term visions and ideas.
The Blues have been plagued by the same problems as Chelsea in recent weeks, with plenty of work ahead of the club.
Sterling scored the first goal of the Potter era to open the second half and also allayed fears after the erratic first 45 minutes.
Chelsea seemed flexible in their squad and comfortable on the ball in the first half under Potter, but nonetheless failed to defeat in the final third.
Reese James hit a good cross but after Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang couldn’t get to the ball in the middle, Sterling failed to achieve anything on the inner left side.
Benjamin Cisco managed to score the lone kick on a grueling first-half goal, as Salzburg striker Kepa Arrizabalaga forced a powerful save.
Every time Chelsea sought a final pass, the ball itself or the run were well off.
The interval settled on the hosts, and a strong movement made a breakthrough almost instantly.
James rotated his leg and ran down the right flank before Mason Mount was released, and the England midfielder sent an early shot into the penalty area.
When Salzburg missed the opportunity to clear the ball, Sterling pounced on the rebounding ball in the far corner, touching the ball firmly and then darting off into the far corner.
Mount had to produce a sliding block in time to fend off Salzburg’s attack as the match faltered after Chelsea’s opener.
Mount’s lively intervention enveloped a clear boost to a return to form, in what should be considered his strongest showing of this new season.
Okafor came close with a header while Salzburg kept pressing, but Kepa was sharp enough to put down the skillful effort.
Chelsea controlled the ball throughout the game but always seemed confused when the ball was lost.
This instability proved costly when Salzburg broke the pace and punished the hosts with Okafor’s equalizer.
The flawless Silva was pressed into one recovery mission too much, and handling the incomplete chip gave visitors the hole they needed to find the net.
Okafor was propped up in front of the cover and slid elegantly past Kepa to bring the match back to 1-1.
Philip Cohen made a save from Hakim Ziyech’s starting point to deny Chelsea after a smart break between Armando Bruja and Sterling.