‘Special night’ relieves pressure on Chelsea’s Potter
Chelsea manager Graham Potter breathed a sigh of relief after his side finally delivered some return on a world record one-season spend in the transfer market on Tuesday by reaching the quarter-finals of the Champions League.
The Blues overturned a 1-0 first-leg deficit by beating Borussia Dortmund 2-0 at Stamford Bridge thanks to goals either side of half-time from Raheem Sterling and Kai Havertz.
Potter’s job appeared to be on the line had his side exited Europe following a dreadful run of form in the Premier League and early exits from both domestic cup competitions.
Chelsea’s new ownership has remained loyal to the former Brighton boss despite just three wins in 16 games before Dortmund’s visit.
Co-owners Todd Boehly and Behdad Eghbali were all smiles as they made their way across the pitch after full-time having witnessed the best result of their era in charge after splashing over £500 million ($600 million) on new players.
“Things are never bad forever, but it felt like that sometimes,” said Potter on the pressure he has been under in recent weeks.
Potter still has issues to contend with though.
Chelsea’s profligacy over the two legs that left the tie in the balance all the way to the end remains to be resolved.
Sterling got the crucial opening goal just before half-time but was also guilty of wasting plenty more big chances.
Havertz, meanwhile, was handed a lifeline when his penalty came back off the post.
The German international made the most of a second chance after a VAR review found Dortmund players had encroached on his first attempt.
But there was finally some relief for Potter, who has now worked his way up from coaching in the ninth tier of English football to the last eight of Europe’s biggest stage.
“It was a special night,” added Potter. “To win a game to go into the last eight of the Champions League is up there in terms of wins and games in my career.”
Chelsea’s two previous Champions League-winning campaigns in 2012 and 2021 came via unexpected runs after sacking a manager mid-season.
With over a month to go until the quarter-finals, there is time for lightning to strike for a third time if Potter can generate greater cohesion from his cast of expensively assembled stars.
If there remains work to do up front, Potter does at least appear to be building a solid foundation at the back.
Dortmund arrived in London on the back of a 10-game winning streak, but they were largely kept at arm’s length bar Marco Reus’ first-half free-kick that forced Kepa Arrizabalaga into a flying save.
The return from injury of Reece James, Ben Chilwell and Wesley Fofana has made a massive difference with Chelsea claiming their fifth clean sheet in nine games against the Bundesliga title challengers.
“It’s not easy,” said Dortmund coach Edin Terzic on breaking Chelsea down. “It’s not just that they spent money, they brought in some quality players. You can feel that they are always dangerous.”