Graham Potter got off to a disappointing start as Chelsea boss after FC Salzburg scored a late equalizer to grab a 1-1 draw at Stamford Bridge on Wednesday and leave the London side with just one point from their opening two Champions League matches.
Raheem Sterling looked set to give Potter a winning debut with a curled strike from a Mason Mount cross in the 48th minute. But Salzburg delivered a sucker-punch 15 minutes from the end when Noah Okafor scuffed in a close-range finish as Chelsea’s defense was cut open.
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The result leaves Chelsea bottom of Group E after they suffered a 1-0 defeat to Dinamo Zagreb in their opener last week.
“We’re disappointed with the result,” Potter told BT Sport. “I thought the boys gave everything. We scored a good goal, but lost a bit in the second half but their goalkeeper made some good saves.
“It has not been easy for the boys, they have responded to us really well over the last few days and it’s a point we will have to take and get better. The attitude has been fantastic, no complaints apart from the fact we have not taken three points.”
Last week’s loss proved to be the final game of Thomas Tuchel’s time in charge, with Potter since recruited from Brighton and given little immediate margin for error in what was his first-ever Champions League outing as a coach.
Potter made three changes to last week’s lineup, bringing in Thiago Silva and Marc Cucurella to start in a back three alongside captain Cesar Azpilicueta. Jorginho also came into the side in midfield.
Chelsea dominated the play in the first half but had little to show for it in terms of clear-cut opportunities. The closest the home side came to an opening goal was when Mount sliced wide of the target when the ball broke gently to him on the edge of the box.
There was a moment of recognition for Tuchel, too, with Chelsea supporters saluting the departed manager in the 21st minute to mark the Champions League crown he led the club to in 2021.
Three minutes into the second half, there finally appeared to be lift off for the Potter era.
Reece James released Mount down the right and his low cross was allowed to travel all the way through to Sterling near the top of the penalty box. The England forward, who started in a wide left berth, found the bottom corner of the net with pinpoint accuracy.
While Chelsea were unable to build on their lead, they largely prevented Salzburg from offering much threat to spoil Potter’s debut.
But a warning came Chelsea’s way in the 73rd minute when Okafor was allowed a free header that he failed to make the most of.
The warning was not heeded and two minutes later Chelsea’s lead was gone. The usually rock-solid Silva failed to intercept a pass to Junior Adamu down the right and his low ball into the area was met by Okafor who got just enough on his shot to beat Kepa Arrizabalaga, deputizing for Edouard Mendy in the Chelsea goal.
Chelsea still had a glorious chance to take all three points late on, but Salzburg goalkeeper Philipp Kohn saved superbly to deny Hakim Ziyech’s close-range effort.
But a single point means Chelsea will be under pressure going into a double-header next up against group leaders AC Milan.
“We can’t lie, it’s not the position we want to be in but we have to respond, it’s as simple as that,” Potter said. “It is going to be a tough group, I think. But there’s enough quality in the team and the squad to respond and we have to look forward to those games.”