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Champions League

Player ratings as Graham Potter draws first match in charge of Blues

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Graham Potter began life at Chelsea with a 1-1 draw with Salzburg in the Champions League group stages.

The Blues displayed a formidable intensity and structure in their first game under their new boss but were undone by a late Salzburg sucker-punch at Stamford Bridge.

After a pre-match period of remembrance for the late Queen Elizabeth II, Chelsea came flying out of the traps and their first half-chances of the evening came through Kai Havertz and Pierre-Emerick Aubamayeng, but neither could keep their successive shots from the edge of the area on target.

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Havertz then had a goal-bound header blocked by Benjamin Sesko as Potter’s men continued to play at a high intensity in the opening stages.

A through ball from Raheem Sterling came so close to being converted by Aubameyang, only for Strahinja Pavlovic to make a last-ditch challenge to deny the striker.

After a stoppage to fix the referee’s communication system, Mason Mount lashed a fierce strike just wide of the post as the Blues upped the ante again.

At the other end, Sesko came close to putting Salzburg ahead after a neat swivel and snap-shot, but Kepa Arrizabalaga made a stretching save to deny him.

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Chelsea wanted a penalty in first-half stoppage time when Mateo Kovacic’s header hit Bernardo’s hand, but the referee stood firm and waved play on.

Just after the break, Sterling broke the deadlock to become the first goalscorer of the Potter era. Mount’s low cross managed to evade everyone, allowing Sterling to ghost in, set himself and pick out the far corner of Philipp Kohn’s net.

Salzburg seldom created much but came close to equalising when Noah Okafor found space for a free header, but his glanced effort was held by Arrizabalaga.

But Okafor didn’t make a mistake minutes later when he notched in Salzburg’s leveller. Thiago Silva failed to deal with Chukwubuike Adamu, who ghosted past his slide tackle and squared for Okafor to tap in.

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Reece James fired over at the end of a clever free-kick routine almost immediately from kick-off as Chelsea looked to restore their lead.

Hakim Ziyech was denied by Kohn from close range after he met a Sterling cross, and Armando Broja’s vicious half-volley sailed over in stoppage time as the Blues had to settle for a point.

Raheem Sterling celebrates with Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang

Raheem Sterling was impressive for Chelsea / Craig Mercer/MB Media/GettyImages

GK: Kepa Arrizabalaga – 6/10 – Provided an option to play from the back. Made a decent sprawling save but was largely untroubled.

CB: Cesar Azpilicueta – 5/10 – Looked every bit his 33 years of age at times. Beaten by the run of Okafor for the equaliser.

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CB: Thiago Silva – 6/10 – Put in a series of excellent tackles and interceptions, but was too weak in his challenge leading to Salzburg’s equaliser.

CB: Marc Cucurella – 6/10 – Flittered between centre-back and left-back. Saw a lot of the ball but wasn’t as creative he could be.

RM: Reece James – 5/10 – Pushed up high as a wing-back at times in Potter’s fluid system. Couldn’t quite bring all the facets of his expansive game together.

CM: Mason Mount – 7/10 – Dropped very deep to track back, collect the ball and build attacks. Provided the assist for the opening goal.

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CM: Jorginho – 5/10 – Pressed into a few errors early on and struggled to keep up with the high tempo of the game but eventually settled into the rhythm.

CM: Mateo Kovacic – 5/10 – Showed his obvious quality in flashes but not throughout the entire match.

LM: Raheem Sterling – 8/10 – Played as a wing-back at times (the Leandro Trossard role, if you will), but that meant he had lots of room to run into. Took his goal excellently.

AM: Kai Havertz – 6/10 – Pressed and created plenty of havoc in the first half. Was a bit more toothless in the second and was duly hooked.

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CF: Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang – 5/10 – Got himself into good areas and led the line fairly well, but couldn’t find the net on his home debut.

Manager: Graham Potter – 6/10 – Chelsea looked like a team who had been coached by a manager for much longer than six days, testament to Potter and his backroom staff. However, their issue in creating clear cut chances and converting them remain.

SUB: Ruben Loftus-Cheek (66′ for Havertz) – 5/10

SUB: Armando Broja (66′ for Aubameyang) – 5/10

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SUB: Conor Gallagher (81′ for Kovacic) – N/A

SUB: Hakim Ziyech (81′ for Azpilicueta) – N/A

SUB: Christian Pulisic (84′ for Sterling) – N/A

Player of the Match – Raheem Sterling



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Champions League

Lionel Messi breaks two Champions League records against Maccabi Haifa

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Lionel Messi’s goal against Maccabi Haifa saw him set two new Champions League records.

It wasn’t an easy night in Israel for Messi and PSG by any means, with the home side taking a shock lead 24 minutes in courtesy of Tjaronn Chery.

However, they couldn’t stay in front for long with Messi getting his team an equaliser just 13 minutes later.

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He spread the ball out wide to Kylian Mbappe who got to the byline and played it back, giving the Argentinian an easy finish from well inside the box. The goal proved to be the start of PSG’s comeback, with the French side going on to win 3-1, and that wasn’t the only reason it was significant.

With his goal, Messi scored against his 39th different club in the Champions League, setting a new record in the process.

Before that, he and long-term Cristiano Ronaldo were level on 38, and with Ronaldo not playing in the Champions League this season, the record is now set to be Messi’s for quite some time.

That wasn’t the only record the 35-year-old secured on Wednesday as Messi has now scored in 18 consecutive Champions League campaigns – every year since 2005/06 – accomplishing a feat never seen before.

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Perhaps the biggest record – most Champions League goals – still eludes him, with Ronaldo scoring 14 more, and it seems unlikely he’ll be able to make up such a margin before he retires, but it would take a brave man to put it past him.



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Champions League

Borussia Dortmund couldn’t stop me

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Erling Haaland has praised Borussia Dortmund for how they defended against Manchester City, but was keen to point out that they still couldn’t find a way to stop him.

Man City struggled to break the Bundesliga side down in what was an eventual 2-1 Champions League win on Wednesday, not having a single shot on target until John Stones’ 80th minute effort.

That shot on target was also their first goal, and their second one was the winner, with Haaland volleying his team to victory.

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The Norwegian praised the way his former team played and defended but issued a reminder that it wasn’t enough to stop him.

When told by an interview on BT Sport that BVB ‘clearly know how to stop you’, Haaland replied: “They didn’t stop me, I scored!

“But yeah, they played well and they were good, and I was quite sure I was going to be followed all game because they know me very well.

“Dortmund were really good today, and in the end, the three points is what matters.”

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Haaland’s goal was one of the best he’s scored, with the striker lifting his leg extremely high to turn in a stunning cross from Joao Cancelo.

The team’s first one wasn’t bad either, with Stones firing in from outside the box, but Haaland joked that his was the better of the two.

“Yeah, two wonderful goals today. I think mine was a bit better, honestly,” he added.

The 22-year-old now has just one goal less than Luis Suarez in the Champions League and only four fewer than Wayne Rooney.

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Champions League

Pep Guardiola lauds ‘exceptional’ Jude Bellingham after stellar Champions League outing

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Pep Guardiola was full of praise for the “exceptional” Jude Bellingham after he impressed in Borussia Dortmund’s 2-1 defeat to Manchester City in the Champions League.

The 19-year-old had put Dortmund on course for a surprise win at the Etihad Stadium when he headed home Marco Reus’ centre just before the hour mark, but the Bundesliga giants were unable to hold on as late goals from John Stones and Erling Haaland turned the tide in City’s favour.

Nevertheless, Dortmund were impressive in their defensive shape throughout the 90 minutes, as well as causing problems on the counter, and Bellingham was one of the more impressive performers on the night.

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Mixing finesse on the ball with wonderful vision and instinctive reading of the game, Bellingham out-duelled the likes of Kevin De Bruyne and Ilkay Gundogan for large periods, and showed why he’s one of the most highly-rated teenagers in world football.

Liverpool are long-term admirers of Bellingham, but judging by Guardiola’s comments after the game, there’s every chance City may look to sign the England international when the time comes for him to leave Dortmund.

“I was impressed two seasons ago when he was 17. Now he’s 19… he was good at 17, imagine now at 19,” Guardiola said of Bellingham. “He’s able to follow [Ilkay] Gundogan, Kevin [De Bruyne], win the duels, transitions are fast, to have the sense in the box for the goal he scored.

“So yes, an exceptional player. I think everybody knows it, not because the manager of Manchester City says it, everybody knows it.”

Bellingham’s manager at Dortmund, Edin Terzic, was equally full of praise for his display on the night, telling the assembled media: “Jude, like all the other players, gave a great performance in offensive and defensive terms. 

“He blocked so any passes and crosses and also got forward… once again, he was very good against Manchester City.”

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