A significant victory for Chelsea, but from a game that was not the big Champions League encounter they were expecting.
Graham Potter’s first season in the competition is now looking much more forgiving and it’s not just because he finally picked up that first win and the club’s third of the season in his second game. It was how easy that 3-0 win was or the fact that they are already ahead of AC Milan. The Italian champions are said to be Chelsea’s biggest challenge and a potentially big obstacle in this group considering the English club have already dropped points against Dinamo Zagreb and Salzburg.
It’s just that Milan isn’t quite the way we imagined it to be. And that’s not what Chelsea looked like in the last few weeks.
Perhaps Conor Gallagher’s late winner against Crystal Palace released something. Maybe it gave the whole training work extra momentum. Maybe it was because of how Milan are trying to carve out a new place in the game.
Either way, Chelsea were so much better than them. The competition should have ended at halftime, but it wasn’t long after that it did. Potter’s side could cruise for the last half hour.
They could lift it however they wanted. You were so much better.
There are of course myriad other reasons for this, most of them in the billions the Premier League receives compared to Serie A and how a player like Leeds United’s Charles De Ketelaere was actually offered more money.
It meant Milan didn’t just look like a team lacking key players like Theo Hernandez and Mike Maignan. It meant it was impossible not to imagine what they were meant to be.
A restructured Milan is generally on an upward curve, especially after winning their first Scudetto in 11 years last season, but that will bring a few reasons like this. They’re still a little way from where they should be.
Stefano Pioli’s great designs for controlling games like this hit the reality of the resources available.
It seemed no coincidence or just a consequence of Potter’s coaching that Chelsea have been at their most free and lively under the new manager. They had the space to express themselves, but also the superior quality.
Perhaps the most encouraging aspect of the game was the developing understanding between Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Mason Mount. They connected a couple of times, most divinely with an exquisite goal that was almost cruelly ruled out for offside. Aubameyang had deftly lofted a pass for Mount, only to lift it over backup goalkeeper Ciprian Tatarusanu.
After all, Chelsea were already leading 1-0 at this point, as Milan suffered another mistake. They struggled to deal with set pieces. After Thiago Silva took a corner powerfully, Wesley Fofana had to force his first goal for the club.
That made it a bittersweet night for the new defender as he was soon to leave with an injury. It still says a lot, which will worry Potter more than returning to the San Siro next week.
Aside from a move at 1-0 that saw Rade Krunic put the ball yards from an open goal, Milan had literally nothing to worry Chelsea.
It went in quick succession and for a short time after half-time there was a chance after a chance. That was when Chelsea did enough.
Aubameyang scored the goal he deserved by completing a Reece James cross, although there will be questions over Fikayo Tomori’s coverage. Perhaps that’s why Gareth Southgate left him out – because Serie A is still below the required level.
However, the England manager will find it very difficult to leave James out of his starting XI. Amid so much debate over the various qualities of Southgate right-backs, James once again stressed how complete he is. Admittedly, he didn’t have to defend much, but he took the opportunity to give his fine cross a brilliant finish. The goal of the night came when James just slammed the ball into the top of the net.
He had almost the freedom of the box. Milan granted Chelsea freedom of the pitch. They suddenly have a clear path to the round of 16. It wasn’t the game we expected. But it wasn’t the challenge Potter would have expected, either.
https://www.independent.co.uk/sport/football/chelsea-ac-milan-result-final-score-champions-league-b2196174.html Result Chelsea vs. AC Milan: final result, goals, highlights and match report of the Champions League