5 Things Learned: Chelsea 2-0 (2-1 agg) Borussia Dortmund | Champions League
Chelsea progressed to the Champions League quarter-finals after a huge 2-0 victory against Borussia Dortmund at Stamford Bridge.
A first half Raheem Sterling strike and a second half Kai Havertz penalty were enough to earn Chelsea a deserved victory in the Champions League against Borussia Dortmund on Tuesday evening, helping to ease the pressure on under-fire manager Graham Potter.
The atmosphere was electric under the lights at Stamford Bridge before kick off, with both sets of supporters setting the tone for this crunch Champions League clash.
However, it was Chelsea who came out of the traps fastest as they searched for a goal to level up the aggregate score, and threatened through Joao Felix and Kai Havertz early on.
Borussia Dortmund grew back into the tie and started to dominate possession, with Marco Reus producing their best effort, with his sumptuous free kick producing an equally strong save from Kepa Arrizabalaga in the Chelsea goal.
With the support of Stamford Bridge behind them, Chelsea managed to regain control of proceedings and started to create a flurry of chances. First, Havertz hit the post for the blues, with his effort spinning across Alexander Meyer’s goal line and away from danger, before he had an effort ruled out for a marginal Raheem Sterling offside in the build up.
Chelsea’s recent misfortunes in front of goal were further highlighted moments later, after Ben Chilwell’s free kick went beyond Meyer to Kalidou Koulibaly to tap in, only for the ball to bounce off his ankle and back to Felix who couldn’t finish either.
However, Chelsea’s domination finally came to fruition late in the first half, courtesy of Sterling’s seventh goal of the season. Mateo Kovacic and Havertz combined well on the left, bundling the ball to Chilwell who cut the ball back to Sterling, who despite mistiming his first effort was able to smash past Meyer at the second attempt to give his side a well deserved lead at the interval.
Chelsea continued in the ascendancy at the start of the second period, and won an early penalty after Chilwells cross was blocked by a Dortmund arm in the box. After a lengthy VAR delay, Kai Havertz stepped up and hit the post with his initial effort. However, his blushes were spared after it was deemed that Dortmund’s players had encroached on the box during the spot-kick, and Havertz coolly slotted the ball into the same corner at the second time of asking, putting the blues ahead on aggregate.
Dortmund came back fighting after this setback and nearly hit back through Jude Bellingham, who could only poke wide from close range.
Borussia Dortmund kept coming at Chelsea, with Marius Wolf forcing a couple of solid stops from Kepa in what was a nervy end to proceedings. However, Chelsea showed the necessary grit and determination to hang on to an important win, in what was a classic European night at Stamford Bridge.
Here are five things Absolute Chelsea learned from Tuesday’s victory against Borussia Dortmund.
1) Chelsea still have hope in Europe
Early exits in the League Cup and FA Cup, coupled with poor form in the league has meant Chelsea’s hopes for this season are once again reliant on a Champions League run. After a first leg defeat many would have been forgiven for assuming that Chelsea’s trophy hopes for the season would end at Stamford Bridge on Tuesday evening, yet the Blues still find themselves chasing a third European Cup.
It is very important psychologically to still have something to fight for in a season, and by remaining in Europe, Chelsea have given themselves hope and optimism which they can use as a platform to build on for the rest of their campaign.
2) Kai Havertz proves his worth
After a spate of poor displays in attack, many fans had started to question why Kai Havertz had not been dropped by Graham Potter as he looked to galvanise his attack. However, Potter’s faith in Haverz has been vindicated, with the German putting in a fantastic display for his team.
Havertz was a constant thorn in Dortmund’s side, with his clever movement pulling defenders all over the place, whilst his aggressive pressing and constant fight, was a much needed catalyst for the Blues all round performance. Havertz also showed nerves of steel to dispatch his penalty at the second time of asking in such a high-pressure situation, slotting it in the same corner he had hit the post from, moments earlier.
3) Pressure on Potter eases
After defeat against Southampton, many labelled a crunch run of fixtures against Tottenham, Leeds and Borussia Dortmund as key to Graham Potter’s future job status. However, with consecutive victories now safely in the bank, Potter will have done a lot to ease any immediate pressure surrounding his future.
Chelsea looked much better than Dortmund on the night, which is testament to Potters tactics, as they built on the performance against Leeds. Although there are still many areas Chelsea need to improve moving forward, such an important Champions League victory will surely grant Potter some more time to get things right.
4) 3-4-3 is the way forward
With Chelsea’s recent woes well documented, it seemed inevitable Graham Potter would have to change something in order to spark some life into his faltering side. A return to the 3-4-3 formation has seemingly provided this spark. Chelsea seem far more balanced in this formation then they ever did with a back four, with it seemingly suiting the current squads best qualities much more.
The wingbacks look more dangerous, with Ben Chilwell in particular excelling over recent matches, whilst Chelsea look far more comfortable defensively too. Graham Potter’s best run of form as Chelsea boss came playing this formation, and it seems it may be the secret to his next, too.
5) Chelsea show fight
Despite all the pressure and noise surrounding Chelsea recently, the players showed a lot of character and desire to hold onto an important victory against Borussia Dortmund. The Blues showed more hunger than their opponents on the night, and looked as though they wanted to put in a real shift for their fans at Stamford Bridge.
The players looked fired up and did not back down from any altercations with their opponents, showcasing their determination to win. The players also showed fantastic grit at the end to hang onto the win, despite Dortmund throwing everything they could at them to get back into the tie. If Chelsea can show this fight in the coming weeks, they will surely start to pick up more wins than defeats.