Chelsea 1 – 1 Salzburg

New manager Graham Potter got his Chelsea tenure off to a nervy start as Raheem Sterling’s opener was canceled out by Noah Okafor to hold the Blues to a 1-1 draw against RB Salzburg at Stamford Bridge.

The result will do little to ease pressure on Chelsea’s Champions League Group E campaign, as they remain rooted to the foot of the four-team standings after two games played with a severely dented chance of progressing to the competition’s knockout phases.

Chelsea opened their European crusade with a disappointing 1-0 loss to Dinamo Zagreb last week, prompting the sacking of Thomas Tuchel, as he paid the ultimate price for failing to share the new ownership’s long-term vision for Chelsea’s future.

Potter, enjoying his first taste of top-level European club competition, admitted to having never before attended a Champions League match during his official unveiling on Tuesday, let alone occupied the top seat in the dugout during one.

Sterling claimed the first goal of the Potter era to put Chelsea ahead in the 48th minute, collecting Mason Mount’s low cross from the right which was poorly defended by Salzburg.

Raheem Sterling celebrates scoring for Chelsea against Salzburg

The unmarked forward was afforded ample time and space to measure a shot, before cooly bending an effort into the bottom right corner from just inside the 18-yard box – a move that will be admired by England boss Gareth Southgate, with Reece James also involved .

But Salzburg equalized with 15 minutes remaining through top scorer Okafor after Thiago Silva was guilty of diving in for a tackle, allowing substitute Junior Adamu to deliver a dangerous low cross. Okafor then applied a first-time finish with the aid of a slight deflection off Cesar Azpilicueta.

Chelsea undoing characteristic of below-par season

Chelsea's Cesar Azpilicueta (left) and RB Salzburg's Noah Okafor battle for the ball
Chelsea’s Cesar Azpilicueta (left) and RB Salzburg’s Noah Okafor battle for the ball

Chelsea were back in action after the Premier League’s weekend hiatus due to The Queen’s death, but could not atone for last week’s damaging loss at Zagreb.

Ahead of kick-off in west London, two Chelsea pensioners laid wreaths on the pitch, while Potter emerged from the tunnel wearing a respectful black suit and tie and thanked home supporters for the warm welcome, before the ground fell silent in memory of The Queen .

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A minute’s was observed at Stamford Bridge as a mark of respect following the passing of The Queen

The Blues, improved in their approach, can still rectify their situation to reach the round of 32, but will likely need to beat AC Milan home and away in their back-to-back matches with the Italians in October.

James and Sterling were both sporadically effective in wide positions, but problems remained down the spine of the team, revealing many of the same concerns that dogged performances under Tuchel this term.

In forward areas, Chelsea lacked the fluidity needed to create service for the lonely figure of Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, who again did little to affect the course of the game on his home debut.

Potter: Pleased with application; result frustrating

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New Chelsea boss Graham Potter was happy with his players’ attitude and effort in his opening game in charge of the side.

Chelsea head coach Graham Potter said:

“Frustrated with just the one point. I enjoyed how the players went about their work tonight. I thought we got Raheem into some good 1v1 situations. Our response was good to conceding.

“But we needed a second goal and it didn’t come. We’re disappointed with the one point.

“They gave everything. I was very proud of how they acted. It’s not been easy for them either. A change of coach and all that comes with that. They’ve acted professionally, honestly and taken responsibility. Effort was 100 per cent there .

Potter endures an indifferent start

Chelsea’s Graham Potter has failed to win his first competitive match in charge of a side for the first time in his managerial career, having won his first game as manager of each of Östersunds FK, Swansea City and Brighton and Hove Albion.

“I thought we got Raheem into some good situations and scored a good goal. We can improve as well. But how the boys approached the game, I’m really happy.

“Whatever you do there is always a plus and minus. We’re at home, we wanted to be on the front foot. It’s not the position we want to be in – it’s a tough group – but there’s enough quality in the team and in the squad that we can respond.

“We understand the demands of this football club. I believe in environment and culture. But I understand we have to win as well. We’re at the start of a process as a group of staff and players. I want to make this team competitive and a team supporters are proud of.”

Analysis: Different day, same problem

Chelsea's Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang on his home debut at Stamford Bridge
Chelsea’s Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang on his home debut at Stamford Bridge

Sky Sports’ Laura Hunter:

It’s clear to see Potter has inherited a squad of disjointed, disenfranchised players.

From Thiago Silva’s rash challenging to the isolated, almost non-existent, figures of both Havertz and Aubameyang, there is significant work to be done.

Potter cannot simply wave a magic wand. If fans were expecting to understand what kind of team Chelsea will be under Thomas Tuchel’s successor – their performance against Salzburg did little to provide sufficient answers.

Many people questioned, even scrutinised, Chelsea’s transfer policy over the summer – one that shunned the pursuit of a recognized No 9 yet aggressively chased the deadline day signing of 33-year-old Aubameyang.

Perhaps that was a senseless swoop? Time will tell.

Chelsea did hold Salzburg in their own half for long periods but at no point did you believe the former Barcelona striker was going to make a discernible difference. His entries were lethargic, summed up by a wonderful James delivery in the first half which evaded any hint of a target, with Aubameyang casually sauntering past the 18-yard line as the ball fizzed dangerously across the face of the goal.

It exposed one of Chelsea’s numerous shortcomings. Sterling did indeed take his Champions League goal tally to 25 – the second-most of any English player – but if Potter relies solely on occasional goals from wide forwards, he’s sure to come continually unstuck.

Chelsea crave a focal point and Aubameyang will be afforded precious little time to impress should his form fail to inspire. There are ready-made replacements in waiting – expect them to be used if he cannot reach the mark.

Chelsea’s remaining Champions League fixtures

October 5: AC Milan (H) – kick-off 8pm

October 11: AC Milan (A) – kick-off 8pm

October 25: RB Salzburg (A) – kick-off 5.45pm

November 2: Dinamo Zagreb (H) – kick-off 8pm

What’s next?

Chelsea‘s Premier League meeting with Liverpooloriginally scheduled for September 18, has been postponed with police resources stretched in the wake of the Queen’s death.

Potter’s side will instead next be in action on October 1 when they travel to Crystal Palace.

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