Chelsea cruised to what was eventually a very comfortable 3-0 Champions League victory over AC Milan at Stamford Bridge on Wednesday night, their first European win this season.
Wesley Fofana gave Chelsea a first half lead before his night ended prematurely because of injury, with Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Reece James going on to add second and third goals.
Early on, a confident Milan hardly looked like the visitors with a decent start to the game, although it was Mason Mount who enjoyed the best chance when he sent Ciprian Tatarusanu sprawling low to his left to beat away a shot bound for the bottom corner.
A flurry of Chelsea set-pieces midway through the first half presented the hosts with another good opportunity, but Tatarusanu was equal to Thiago Silva’s header.
It was clear though that it could be a way through for Chelsea and indeed it led to a goal when Silva got his head to another delivery a few moments later. Tatarusanu could this time only weakly parry the ball back into danger and Fofana gladly pounced on the rebound for a tap-in.
Mount did have the ball in the net at the half hour mark, cleverly lifting the ball over Tatarusanu, but the Chelsea player had been offside when he was put through.
However, despite coming to dominate, the fragility of a 1-0 lead showed when Rade Krunic blazed a glorious Milan chance over the crossbar in first half stoppage time. It was similar to Chelsea’s opener on the rebound after a weak parry, but Krunic didn’t have Fofana’s accuracy or composure.
Ultimately, Milan’s initial promise faded quite badly and Chelsea’s second goal early in the second half was the result of a pretty woeful attempt at defending. Fode Ballo-Toure ambled to close down a James cross from the right, while Fikayo Tomori completely misjudged things to allow Aubameyang an easy finish from close range.
Milan’s collapse signalled Chelsea’s third. The Rossoneri were all over the place as Chelsea moved the ball quickly and Raheem Sterling fed the advancing James into right-hand side of the penalty area. His near-post finish was clinical, albeit poor from Tatarusanu.
Both managers made the maximum number of changes, which ultimately slowed and killed any chance of rhythm the game had. That probably suited Chelsea in the end because it allowed them to just sit on their lead. Milan, knowing the result was done, basically obliged.
GK: Kepa Arrizabalaga – 5/10 – Didn’t have to do that much but should have done better with a poor parry when it was only 1-0.
CB: Wesley Fofana – 6/10 – Turned poacher in the opposite penalty area for his first Chelsea goal. But his night ended in the first half due to injury.
CB: Thiago Silva – 8/10 – Commanding at the back and a real danger from attacking set-pieces. A big night against his former club.
CB: Kalidou Kouliably – 6/10 – In for his first minutes under Potter. Important that he got a chance in a comfortable setting.
RM: Reece James – 8/10 – Supremely technically gifted and comes away with a goal and assist. Leao also caused no problems.
CM: Ruben Loftus-Cheek – 7/10 – Did a good job on both sides of the ball, highlighting just hos bad Milan were. Also gets the assist for the opener.
CM: Mateo Kovacic – 6/10 – Will face much tougher challenges than this.
LM: Ben Chilwell – 6/10 – Overshadowed by James on the opposite flank but put in a commendable performance.
RF: Raheem Sterling – 7/10 – Fouled a few times but worked hard for the win. Got his reward with a measure assist for the third goal.
ST: Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang – 7/10 – Scored for the second time in a matter of days, showing just what he can offer this team.
LF: Mason Mount – 7/10 – Found the net but was correctly flagged offside and generally posed a threat.
SUB: Trevoh Chalobah – (38′ for Fofana) – 6/10
SUB: Conor Gallagher (65′ for Aubameyang) – 7/10
SUB: Jorginho (66′ for Kovacic) – 6/10
SUB: Kai Havertz (74′ for Mount) – 6/10
SUB: Armando Broja (75′ for Sterling) – 6/10
Manager: Graham Potter – 7/10 – Made a few changes from the weekend, but his job was more straightforward because of how disappointing Milan were.
GK: Ciprian Tatarusanu – 3/10 – Started with a couple of decent saves but looked progressively worse as the game continued.
RB: Sergino Dest – 3/10 – Easy to forget he was even on the pitch. Struggled to cope with Mount.
CB: Pierre Kalulu – 5/10 – It wasn’t a high bar by any stretch of the imagination, but he was Milan’s best defender.
CB: Fikayo Tomori – 4/10 – Didn’t cover himself in glory when he was hoping to prove a point against his former club. At fault for the second goal.
LB: Fode Ballo-Toure – 3/10 – Very poor attempt at defending for Chelsea’s killer second goal. The third also came down his side.
CM: Ismael Bennacer (c) – 3/10 – Questions should be asked of his poor marking at multiple set-pieces. Really struggled generally.
CM: Sandro Tonali – 4/10 – Sat very deep; probably too deep.
RM: Rade Krunic – 5/10 – Booked mere minutes into the game. Should have equalised in first half stoppage time.
AM: Charles De Ketelaere – 5/10 – Saw a decent attempt saved in first half stoppage time but it was his only real involvement.
LM: Rafael Leao – 5/10 – Came into this game with major expectations on his shoulders and didn’t live up to it beyond some early flashes.
ST: Olivier Giroud – 4/10 – Completely starved of service. At least he got a nice reception from the Stamford Bridge crowd.
SUB: Ante Rebic (65′ for De Ketelaere) – 5/10
SUB: Matteo Gabbia (65′ for Krunic) – 5/10
SUB: Brahim Diaz (72′ for Leao) – 5/10
SUB: Divock Origi (73′ for Giroud) – 5/10
SUB: Tommaso Pobega (73′ for Bennacer) – 5/10
Manager: Stefano Pioli – 5/10 – His team started with some brightness but that disappeared and by the second half they appeared to have given up. He couldn’t change that and substitutions came too late.
Player of the match – Thiago Silva
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How can I watch the 2022/23 Champions League last 16 draw?
So, the excitement of the group stage is over. Having witnessed some European powers breeze through their groups and others progress by the skin of their teeth, we can now look forward to the thrill and the ‘there’s nothing quite like it’-feeling of Champions League knockout football.
Here’s all you need to know about the Champions League round of 16.
The draw for the first round of this campaign’s Champions League knockout phase will take place on Monday 7 November at 11:00 (GMT).
How to watch the 2022/23 Champions League last 16 draw in the UK
How to watch the 2022/23 Champions League last 16 draw in the United States and Canada
The eight group winners and the eight second-placed sides will feature in the Champions League round of 16 stage.
All four English teams that entered the competition have made it through to the knockout phase, with Tottenham, Chelsea and Manchester City joining Napoli, Porto, Bayern Munich, Benfica and reigning champions Real Madrid as the eight seeded sides.
Meanwhile, Liverpool are joined by Club Brugge, Inter, Eintracht Frankfurt, Milan, RB Leipzig, Borussia Dortmund and Paris Saint-Germain as the unseeded sides.
The table-toppers and runners-up will be drawn against each other – apart from those that competed in the same group and those from the same Associations.
We’ll be able to see these European heavyweights lock horns after the turn of the year, with the first legs set to be played over the 14 and 15 February, and the second legs over the 21 and 22.
We’ve got to get through a World Cup first, though.
Who could Tottenham face in the 2022.23 Champions League knockout stages?
Khvicha Kvaratskhelia: ‘My dream is to win the Champions League with Real Madrid’
Napoli winger Khvicha Kvaratskhelia, who we rank among the strong competitors for Ballon d’Or next year, has stood up on his greatest dream.
In a meeting with Corriere dello Sport, Kvaratskhelia: “My biggest dream? To win the Champions League. With who? With Real Madrid.
“Since I was a kid, I was a Real Madrid fan. Always watched their games,” the winger added in the interview just before joining Napoli for just €10m from Dinamo Batumi.
The Georgian technician has registered as many as 8 goals and 10 assists in just 17 games for the Neapolitans this season.
It’s why many top clubs seem to have their sights set on the Georgian international. But the man of the moment only dreams of Real Madrid.
Source: Corriere dello Sport (h/t Total Cristiano @ Twitter)
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