Tuesday’s 2-0 victory against AC Milan saw Chelsea move closer to the round of 16 in the Champions League. The victory put Chelsea atop Group E and left the Italians wondering what could have been.
At a crowded San Siro, Graham Potter’s squad dominated Milan, who had to play most of the game with 10 men after Fikayo Tomori was controversially shown a straight red card early on.
Milan had been keeping pace with Chelsea until the 18th minute when the decision was made to dismiss Blues player Tomori for a foul on Mason Mount in the area.
After a heartbreaking loss, Milan coach Stefano Pioli maintained his composure but admitted to reporters: “I certainly don’t believe the referee has had one of his best days.”
Italy’s Jorginho scored the next penalty, and 11 minutes before halftime, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang calmly finished to break Milan’s resistance and put Chelsea one point ahead of Salzburg in the group.
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“Milan’s intentions have altered, but for us, it was still important to make that matter. Playing against ten guys is never easy, particularly here, “said Potter.
It was a critical occasion, but we still believed we could win with 11 on 11, so we had to accept the referee’s ruling.
Chelsea won their first game against Milan at Stamford Bridge last week, when they were lower in the group. However, after their fourth straight win in all competitions, they are in first place in the group.
Milan is now third after two consecutive losses to Chelsea, although they still have a shot of qualifying for the knockout rounds for the first time since the 2013–14 season.
Only two points separate Pioli’s team from the qualifying spots, and a trip to Dinamo Zagreb and Salzburg will determine their standing in the tournament.
After the game, Pioli remarked, “I don’t believe there’s any doubt I’ll need to inspire my players.
“We’ll need to be ready as much as we can for the game in Zagreb, and I’ll try to accomplish that.”
When referee Daniel Siebert sent off Tomori and awarded Chelsea a penalty after the England defender hauled down Mount, who had been expertly sent through by Reece James, the already fractious and scrappy match erupted.
When Olivier Giroud and Mount were both penalized in the pushing amid thunderous boos from the home crowd, Tomori could hardly believe what he was seeing.
Three minutes later, Jorginho scored to enrage Italy supporters further after his missed penalty kicks lost their country’s national team from qualifying for the 2017 World Cup. Again, the San Siro was filled with an enraged uproar.
In the 27th minute, Giroud tied the score against his former team with a header that almost missed the goalpost, but Aubameyang quickly ensured that Chelsea had a firm hold on the game.
Aubameyang and Raheem Sterling were both assisted by Mount when he passed through them, but it was the Gabon striker who arrived first and calmly finished at Ciprian Tatarusanu’s near post.
Aubameyang’s third goal in as many games for the Blues’ second destroyed Milan, even though, to their credit, they did try to press the issue in the second half, helped by their excellent home crowd.
On the hour mark, Rafael Leao raced down the left wing and threw over an enticing cross that the American could have handled better, but the hosts’ Sergio Dest sliced a dreadful attempt into the stands.
From then on, Chelsea was satisfied to maintain the ball and neutralize an already decided game.