Graham Potter got a big Champions League win over AC Milan because the Chelsea front line worked well together

Wednesday’s 3-0 win over AC Milan at Stamford Bridge kept Chelsea’s Champions League hopes alive.

Wesley Fofana scored the first goal for Chelsea in the 24th minute of the first half, but he had to leave the game because he was hurt just 14 minutes later. AC Milan had some time with the ball, but Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Reece James’ goals in the second half put Chelsea in charge.

Graham Potter got a big Champions League win over AC Milan because the Chelsea front line

This was Chelsea’s first win in the Champions League this season and Graham Potter’s first as a manager. More importantly, it was their first win of the season and keeps them in the running for a spot in the knockout stages.

Chelsea passed the first test of the Potter era

Potter did not have much time to get used to things at Chelsea. The 1-0 loss to Dinamo Zagreb in their first Champions League game of the season, which turned out to be Thomas Tuchel’s last game as manager, put Chelsea on the back foot. In Potter’s first game in charge, Chelsea drew 1-1 with FC Salzburg at Stamford Bridge. That meant that tonight’s game was a must-win for Potter. If they lost, their Champions League hopes would hang by a thread and depend on how other games went.

But Potter’s Chelsea delivered. This was by far their best performance of the three he has been in charge of. They pushed and pulled AC Milan all over the field. Even though the Serie A champions had some good chances, Chelsea was in charge for most of the game. Under Potter’s leadership, the team is getting more and more used to playing together. It’s a way of thinking based on overloads and rushing in at just the right time. This group is a good fit for that, with great players like James, Sterling, and Aubameyang.

Ruben Loftus-Cheek and Mateo Kovacic played well together in the middle of the field. They switched who went forward and who stayed back. Thiago Silva, who had been playing for a long time, was great in the back. In the first half, his three headers from consecutive set pieces caused a scramble that led to Fofana’s first goal for the club and Chelsea’s first goal.

Graham Potter got a big Champions League win over AC Milan

And, most importantly, Kepa Arrizabalaga kept Chelsea’s goal clean. Edouard Mendy was back in shape after missing Potter’s first two games. It would be interesting to see who started, but it was Kepa, who was often Tuchel’s second choice. When Kepa was asked to do something, he did it.

Sterling and Aubameyang do well up front, even though Mount is upset.

The front three of Chelsea played well against AC Milan. Even though Mason Mount hasn’t scored yet this season, Potter probably won’t change much after seeing his front three work so well on Wednesday.

In his third game for Chelsea, Aubameyang had his best game yet. His constant movement kept getting AC Milan’s defense out of position. In the second half, he scored his second goal in as many games by finishing off James’ cross.

On the other side of the field, Sterling and James are doing great work on Chelsea’s right side, where they often overlap. James’ confident finish from close range for Chelsea’s third goal was helped along by his pass. On the other side, the long-term picture is still a little unclear, since Marc Cucurella is on the bench and Chelsea has a lot of attacking talent, but Mount and Ben Chilwell worked well together against Milan.

One of Potter’s first big jobs will be to help Mount feel better about himself. Mount will want to score his first goal for Chelsea this season, but it’s not for lack of trying. In the first half, his shot was saved and a nice chip was ruled out because he was out of bounds.

Leao shows why he’s an important player for AC Milan, despite rumors about him moving to another team

In the summer, Chelsea asked about AC Milan forward Rafael Leao, and it’s easy to see why he’s one of Europe’s most sought-after players. He did some amazing tricks, but he is much more than a bag of tricks. It’s hard to keep track of him because he moves around so much. Twice in the first half, he went through half of southwest London on his way to the Chelsea penalty area. When the second dart got past Reece James, which was no small feat, Charles de Ketelaere’s shot was blocked by Kepa. This gave Rade Krunic a great chance, but he couldn’t score from eight yards out with the net wide open at the end of the first half. In the second half, he also made an impressive run that left Thiago Silva in his wake, but his pass to Olivier Giroud was intercepted.

Graham Potter got a big Champions League win over AC Milan because the Chelsea front line worked well together

Fans of Serie A and AC Milan are used to seeing Leao dance through a defense, so this isn’t a new sight. He has done a great job for Pioli’s team. He helped them win the Scudetto last season, and he has already scored four goals and set up four others in seven Serie A games this year. But Leao’s skill was clear to everyone, and if the 23-year-old Portugal forward is going to end up in the Premier League, this was a great audition.

Many eyes were on Leao, but there was also interest in Fikayo Tomori’s return home. He started out as a young player at Chelsea, but he left for AC Milan in 2021 and has since become an important part of their team. He did well on his return to Stamford Bridge and was one of AC Milan’s best players that night. However, he will be upset that he couldn’t stop James’ cross, which led to Aubameyang’s goal.

Aubameyang, Sterling, James, and Loftus-Cheek all played well, but the Brazil defender was great at the back. The 38-year-old was the first Chelsea player to really get close to Leao, and Fofana’s first goal was set up by his barrage of headers in the first half. He was very good.

WORST: Rade Krunic, AC Milan.

A few candidates from AC Milan are here, but Krunic had a hard time. Ben Chilwell made sure he didn’t do anything, and Krunic missed AC Milan’s best chance of the game right before halftime when he missed from a few meters out.

What the coaches and players had to say about the game after it was over: “pleased with how they played and how they handled themselves against top opponents. I thought we needed a good response, and we got one. We also had to suffer, which is a good thing to do. I’m very happy for the players, and we’re off to a good start.

“Chelsea vs. AC Milan is a great football game, and I’m glad to be a part of it. However, it would be even better to win the game. Now is the time to rest so that we can go again on the weekend.”

AC Milan coach Stefano Pioli: “We could have played better, and it’s clear that our opponents did, but we weren’t as accurate as we should have been. After a few minutes, we started doing things we shouldn’t have, and our opponents quickly took advantage of the space behind us.

Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang of Chelsea told BT Sport: “The game wasn’t easy. In the first half, they played well. Then we kept the level of difficulty very high. We didn’t worry.”

Even though Pierre-Emerick Aubamayang had previously played for Arsenal and Barcelona, this is his first Champions League goal since December 6, 2017, when he scored twice against Real Madrid while playing for Borussia Dortmund.

Before Wednesday night, AC Milan had never lost a game in the group stage of the Champions League by more than three goals. They have lost by that margin five times in the knockout rounds.

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