MILAN (AP) – What a difference a week makes. Chelsea was at the bottom of Group E but two straight victories over Serie A champion AC Milan has seen it move into pole position to progress to the Champions League (CL) round of 16.
Chelsea moved to the top of the group yesterday with a 2-0 win at Milan, which played most of the match with 10 men after former Blues defender Fikayo Tomori was sent off in the 18th minute after also giving away a penalty.
Jorginho converted the spotkick and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang doubled the visitors’ advantage in the 34th minute to help Chelsea to its first win on Italian soil since 2003.
Chelsea moved a point above Salzburg, which drew 1-1 at Dinamo Zagreb in the other Group E match. Milan and Dinamo are three points below Chelsea.
“It’s obviously important for us to be there at the end of the group,” Chelsea manager Graham Potter said. “We know we haven’t got enough points now so we have to keep going, focus on the next match, which is Salzburg away – another tough one.”
Potter was appointed last month after Thomas Tuchel was fired following a surprise 1-0 loss to Dinamo in their Champions League opener. And the former Brighton manager has swiftly turned things around.
“The important thing is the quicker you get to know the players, the quicker you can build some trust up, the quicker that you can understand them the better,” Potter said. “I think it’s down to the guys, the players, how they’ve responded.
They’ve been very honest, very responsible and they want to do well. “So our job is to try to help them and try to help them enjoy their football. If they’re enjoying their football then there’s quality in the team.”
Milan, which was going through an injury crisis, lost 3-0 at Chelsea last week. Tomori had one of Milan’s worst performances and was hoping to redeem himself at San Siro.
But it all went wrong for him and Milan early on as Tomori was shown a straight red card for a tug on Mason Mount and the referee pointed to the spot.
“I just asked the referee at the end of the game whether VAR was working properly,” Milan coach Stefano Pioli said. “I don’t believe it was the referee’s best evening, that’s without a doubt.”
Jorginho had missed his past three penalties for Italy but his trademark hop, skip and jump technique worked this time and he sent Milan goalkeeper Ciprian Tătărușanu the wrong way.
Milan didn’t let their heads go down and almost leveled shortly after as Olivier Giroud was allowed too much space but the former Chelsea forward headed Brahim Díaz’s cross wide of the right post.
Mount was again involved in Chelsea’s second as the England midfielder touched on a through ball to Aubameyang, who buried it into the bottom right corner.
Sergiño Dest had a great opportunity to get Milan back into the match on the hour mark, following great play by Rafael Leão, but the American blazed his effort over the bar.