Salzburg keeps Chelsea at 1-1 draw

Chelsea manager Graham Potter was left frustrated when Red Bull Salzburg ruined his first game in charge with a late equalizer in Wednesday’s 1-1 draw in the Champions League.

Potter was on course for a winning debut as Raheem Sterling gave Chelsea the lead early in the second half at Stamford Bridge.

But the former Brighton boss, who replaced Thomas Tuchel last week, had to settle for a point when Noah punished Okafor with sloppy defense to equalize in the closing stages.

It was a largely disappointing performance from Chelsea, underlining the work Potter must do to rectify the flaws in the expensively put together squad left by Tuchel.

Tuchel was sacked last Wednesday in the wake of Chelsea’s embarrassing 1-0 defeat to Dinamo Zagreb in their Champions League opener.

Chelsea took just one point from their first two games in Group E and now face a battle to qualify for the knockout stage with two games against AC Milan ahead.

With Sunday’s Premier League game against Liverpool postponed due to Queen Elizabeth II’s upcoming funeral, Potter will have to wait until October 1 for his second game when Chelsea travel to Crystal Palace after the international break.

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At least that gives Potter time to make his way after being hired just 24 hours after Tuchel’s shock – what the 47-year-old described as a “whirlwind” week as he embarks on the biggest challenge of his career.

Potter earned wide admiration for his impressive work at Brighton, who achieved their highest Premier League finish last season when the Englishman led them to ninth place.

But thriving on a budget in Brighton offers only limited preparation for the unique demands of dealing with a club with Chelsea ambition.

In fact, Potter had never been to a Champions League game before walking into Stamford Bridge on Wednesday, with his only previous experience of continental competition in the Europa League with Swedish minnows Ostersunds.

He marked the occasion by recalling his old left-back Marc Cucurella in Brighton, as well as Thiago Silva and Jorginho, in place of Ben Chilwell, Wesley Fofana and Kalidou Koulibaly.

– Defensive bad luck –

Surprisingly used as a left-back in Potter’s 3-4-3 formation, Sterling spent much of his time on offense rather than defense.

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The England attacker had blocked a volley from close range and Cucurella’s shot reached Mason Mount, whose shot from the edge of the area hissed wide.

In the first game since Tuchel was sacked, Chelsea supporters, many shocked by his brutal dismissal, paid tribute to the German in the 21st minute.

The time was chosen when Tuchel won Chelsea’s second Champions League trophy when they defeated Manchester City in the 2021 final.

If that display of affection might have made Potter feel uncomfortable, he shifted awkwardly again when Salzburg nearly took the lead late in the first half.

Benjamin Sesko was the danger man with a 25 meter drive that forced a clambering save from Kepa Arrizabalaga.

Potter’s men failed to muster a single shot on target in the first 45 minutes of his reign.

But the cut they missed in the first half was provided by Sterling in the 48th minute.

Reece James’ slick pass sent Mount away down the right flank and his low cross reached Sterling, who curled a fine finish into the far corner from just inside the area.

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Still, Sterling’s fourth goal since moving to Manchester City did not serve as a springboard to victory.

Okafor’s gaze put Kepa to the test in a warning Chelsea failed to heed when Salzburg equalized with 15 minutes to play.

Plagued by defensive mishaps in the final weeks of Tuchel’s reign, Chelsea folded far too easily.

They squandered possession in midfield before Silva failed to clear Junior Adamu’s cross as Okafor converted with a low finish that fended off the sluggish Azpilicueta.

Armando Broja and Hakim Ziyech squandered late chances to restore Chelsea’s lead as the Potter era began in understated fashion.

AFP

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