Tuesday’s 2-0 victory over AC Milan at the San Siro helped Chelsea go to the top of Group E of the Champions League by taking advantage of Fikayo Tomori’s early dismissal.
Graham Potter, who took over for Thomas Tuchel, has overseen the Blues to a successful start, going unbeaten in three Champions League games.
After Tomori was dismissed early for tripping Mason Mount in the penalty area in the 18th minute, Chelsea took advantage by scoring from the spot to severely handicap Milan. Following that, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang kept up his strong play by extending Chelsea’s lead to secure his team’s fourth straight win and keep their unblemished start under Potter’s direction.
Reece James’ forced departure due to injury soon after the hour mark dealt Chelsea a setback in the second half.
Chelsea leads the group after four games with seven points, followed by FC Salzburg with six points. Dinamo Zagreb and AC Milan each have four points.
Graham Potter acknowledged that he had never even attended a Champions League game when he was introduced as Chelsea’s manager. Following a sluggish start under his predecessor Thomas Tuchel, the 47-year-old has earned seven points from his first three games in the tournament a month later, taking control of the Blues’ fate in Group E.
Potter’s back-to-back victories over a resurgent, if under-powered, AC Milan are noteworthy, especially coming at the fiery San Siro. This was a far easier test than it could have been thanks to Fikayo Tomori’s early dismissal, but Chelsea displayed poise and maturity to build a 2-0 lead and then maintain their position while Milan’s fans yelled for referee Daniel Siebert to level the score with each foul Chelsea committed (10 players ended up being carded).
Chelsea still has a difficult journey to FC Salzburg, but they are aware that a win over Dinamo Zagreb the following time out will guarantee their passage into the round of 16.
Since leaving Chelsea in January 2021, Tomori has established himself at San Siro, first on loan before making a permanent £24 million move last summer. He acknowledged there had “a point to prove” against his old employers prior to last week’s reverse match.
However, after a humiliating return to west London last week, his involvement on Tuesday lasted just 18 minutes until German referee Daniel Siebert dismissed him for pushing Mason Mount back into the area. At first glance, it appeared to be a harsh decision, but Tomori, who had gotten on Mount’s bad side, forced the official to make a choice by tussling with him as he closed in on the goal.
The red card was an obvious move after Siebert determined that it constituted a foul. While the loud home crowd screamed their rage, Tomori fought his case vehemently, but the 24-year-old was forced to leave the field. And now, this event is added to last week’s 3-0 loss as well as an own goal that was scored at Chelsea in November 2018 while on loan at Derby.
Such a prominent error is a cruel blow to Tomori’s chances of making Gareth Southgate’s England team for the World Cup.
The only drawback for Potter in this position was a worsening injury problem, which isn’t quite bad enough to be called a crisis but is nonetheless causing growing alarm. James, who has performed well in these two games versus Milan, limped off the field shortly beyond the hour on Tuesday.
Wesley Fofana’s knee injury has already kept him out for a few weeks, N’Golo Kante’s recuperation from a hamstring issue took a turn for the worst, and Hakim Ziyech is sick.
With nine more games left before the World Cup, the games are coming thick and fast. Potter has already made a lot of modifications—he made six more changes here—and in the coming weeks, everyone will be required.