Chelsea snaps to life, bounces Dortmund to reach Champions League quarters
Chelsea sealed a place in the UEFA Champions League quarterfinals by beating Borussia Dortmund 2-0 (2-1 on aggregate) on Tuesday at Stamford Bridge.
Raheem Sterling scored just before halftime and Kai Havertz made the most of a second chance at an early-second half penalty.
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Dortmund led 1-0 after one leg through Karim Adeyemi, but Chelsea boss Graham Potter insisted that his team was very good in the game, just wasteful.
Chelsea joins Benfica in the hat for the last eight, while Dortmund refocuses itself on their pursuit of the Bundesliga crown.
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Potter’s Blues shows style, substance in huge win
Chelsea’s been through the ringer over the past two months, and almost all of it has been of its own doing.
But there’s been some question as to whether Graham Potter should be to blame for the mix of new- and old Chelsea failing to find its finish despite finding real resolves in its own end.
Once Tottenham beat Chelsea 2-0 a few weeks ago, the Blues no longer had defensive strength on which to lean and some were saying ex-Brighton boss Potter was out of his depth and soon to be shown the door.
Potter had admitted his struggles to deal with the criticism lobbed his way, but he stayed in his line and kept encouraging his players to deliver the goods.
Boy, did they, although it’s a little comical that Raheem Sterling butchered his first crack at Chelsea’s first goal and Kai Havertz had to retake the penalty that led to 2-0.
Nothing was going to come easy for the Blues, but Chelsea kept fighting and Potter deserves some credit for that.
The Blues are unlikely to qualify for the Champions League in any other matter than winning the competition, but the honest truth is that they very much have looked capable of that over 180 minutes versus a good Dortmund side.
Anything goes in the final 8, and we’ve already seen Chelsea win the European Cup in a down season earlier in the London club’s celebrated existence.
Chelsea vs Borussia Dortmund player ratings: Stars of the Show
Kalidou Koulibaly and Marc Cucurella: Thiago Silva and Cesar Azpilicueta was out and Benoit Badiashile ineligible, so the back three was a bit stretched. Wesley Fofana was fine, don’t get us wrong, but Koulibaly and Cucurella had us saying, “Thiago who?” (before quickly answering ourselves, “Thiago Silva. One of the best of his era, duh.”
Emre Can: Effective at both ends of the pitch as the former Liverpool man did his best to eliminate his former rivals.
Enzo Fernandez: There will come a day when someone will righteously criticize the expensive Argentine, but it won’t be Tuesday: Nine recoveries and four clearances next to a roving Mateo Kovacic.
Kai Havertz: Might’ve not been the tidiest, hitting the post early and missing his first penalty, but the German ran his shorts off and was credited with six recoveries. If anything, he should be lauded for not wilting during this ice-cold run as he’s been the only attacker religiously named starter by Graham Potter.
Giovanni Reyna: The 20-year-old was pulled into action after only five minutes, and was credited with two chances created and came within a brave Chelsea block of scoring shortly after Havertz’s penalty.
Chelsea goes to Leicester City for a 10am ET Saturday scrap with the Foxes.
Dortmund has to dust itself off for a Revierderby at 12:30pm ET Saturday at Schalke.
Graham Potter reaction
Asked how he feels about the win: “I’m not sure! There is a lot of emotion in the end. It was tense in the end but the boys played fantastic. I am delighted for them to get the win and great for everyone here.”
“Inevitably, in life, you’re going to have bad times and good times. I don’t see any other way to look at it. It’s how you react to the bad times, get some perspective and analyze it in the correct way. Things are never bad forever but it felt like that sometimes.”
Raheem Sterling goal video: England star makes good for gaffe
Kai Havertz penalty video: Second time’s the charm
How to watch Chelsea vs Borussia Dortmund live, stream link, kick off time
This game is Chelsea’s season. This game will define if Graham Potter’s superstars can improve in the final months of the campaign and go on another deep run in the Champions League. They have to stay solid defensively and hope their forwards finally click together. They can beat Dortmund and they showed that in the first leg as they dominated the game, missed several chances and were hit on the counter. Sound familiar, Chelsea fans?
The Blues know if they score in the first half then it’s all systems go but they will be wary of this young Dortmund side who despite a slew of injuries to attacking players, they’re flying right now and have absolutely no fear. If Potter can guide Chelsea to at least the Champions League semifinals then Chelsea’s fans will ease some of the pressure on him, for now. Of course they want to finish in the Premier League’s top four but that seems very unlikely this season so the only way they will be playing in the Champions League next season is by winning this tournament. Expectations are high. First up: let’s see if Chelsea can reach the quarterfinals. Baby steps.
Chelsea team news, lineup options
OUT: N’Golo Kante (hamstring), Thiago Silva (knee), Edouard Mendy (shoulder), Armando Broja (knee), Mason Mount (abdominal/suspension), Cesar Azpilicueta (concussion)
Borussia Dortmund team news, lineup options
OUT: Youssoufa Moukoko (knee), Karim Adeyemi (muscle), Gregor Kobel (muscle), Julien Duranville (muscle), Mateu Morey Bauza (fitness)