In pictures: Chelsea v Dortmund
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Kai Havertz needed a double-take while under-fire manager Graham Potter could not bear to watch at all. But Chelsea finally scored two goals in a game for the first time this year and it proved enough to see off Borussia Dortmund and keep the London club’s season alive.
Moreover, the second-time-lucky penalty conversion after Salih Ozcan encroached on Havertz’s first miss takes a lot of the pressure off the Chelsea manager’s head. For the time being at least.
It was a night on which everything for Chelsea seemed to come in twos. If two fundamentals of the game had been better grasped by two players signed for over £80m last summer, Chelsea could have been home and dry by half-time.
Less than two minutes was on the clock when £50million man Raheem Sterling broke from the halfway line to earn a golden opportunity to give Chelsea the perfect start, but not even the thick, acrid yellow smoke from the Dortmund flares could hide the fact he had badly mistimed his offside run.
When Sterling went early again in the 38th minute, his shot was straight at Alexander Meyer and while Havertz did well to turn in the rebound, the delayed flag was again inevitable. Kalidou Koulibaly’s problem was much simpler than an inability to beat an offside trap. For £34m Chelsea seemed to have bought a player who simply could not play the ball in the right direction.
Chelsea ratings as three Graham Potter stars gets nines in BVB triumph [ANALYSIS]
A free header from a Chilwell cross was nodded badly wide. Then the same player landed a free-kick on Koulibaly’s foot in the 40th minute four yards from goal with the gaping net in front of him, he connected instead with his heel and the ball bounced away from the empty net.
Havertz had been unlucky to hit one post with a sharp shot only to see the ball bounce past the other, but in the end Chelsea’s ineptitude in front of goal finally counted for them and helped them back into the tie. No doubt about it, Sterling had tried to volley in Chilwell’s cross with his left foot a minute before the break after clever work on the left by Havertz and Mateo Kovacic.
He made such a mess of it, though, the ball somehow just stuck at feet. Thanking his lucky stars, Sterling put his foot cleanly through the ball this time and fired Chelsea level. The footballing gods were clearly sporting Chelsea scarves on this most chilly of nights though.
Early in the second half, Chliwell’s cross hit the hand of Marius Wolf and though it was down by his side, the paw was sticking out far enough for Danny Makkelie to change his mind and point to the spot when invited to by VAR.
Even then, Havertz struck his shot against the post, but the technology showed that Salih Ozcan, who cleared the rebound, had strayed well into the ‘D’ by the time the Chelsea striker had completed his stuttering run.
The retake was emphatic – even though Potter couldn’t watch as he stared at the crowd. That said, within minutes Jude Belligham should have levelled the aggregate scores but shot wide from close range. Certainly there was going to be no peace for Potter as a Dortmund team whose bus had arrived late finally came alive.
Even then, Sterling was able to break free again and squared to Conor Gallagher. But the flag was up before the ball reached the net. Some things even the gods cannot affect and sure enough Sterling was offside yet again.
Thankfully for Chelsea, ultimately it did not matter. Despite six minutes of nervous stoppage time, Potter was finally able to see this one out to the bitter end.
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