Chelsea boss Graham Potter hails ‘brilliant’ Chelsea for qualifying for last-16 with a game to spare

 

Chelsea manager Graham Potter praised his side for qualifying for the Champions League last-16 with a game to spare having lost their opener to Dinamo Zagreb.

The Blues booked their ticket for the knockout stages with a 2-1 away win over Salzburg, after impressive strikes from Mateo Kovacic and Kai Havertz in each half, either side of Junior Adamu’s goal.

Chelsea had lost their opening game of the group stage, 1-0 at Dinamo Zagreb, leading to Thomas Tuchel’s dismissal, but under Potter have bounced back with 10 points from four games, including strong away wins at Milan and Salzburg, securing top spot in Group E.

“Very [satisfied]. It’s not easy to win here as you can see from the record they have and the quality of the team,” Potter told reporters.

“We had to play well and I thought we did. We created some good chances in the first half and were unlucky not to go more than 1-0 up.

“Then one action, with the quality at this level, and it’s 1-1. I thought our response was really good then, so I am delighted to go through, delighted with the performance of the players. I thought they were fantastic tonight.

“To go through with a game to spare is brilliant considering where we started the competition.”

Havertz’s 64th-minute winner was a spectacular left-foot strike that cannoned in off the crossbar.

The goal was the German’s first this season in the Champions League, and third in all competitions. It was also Havertz’s first goal away from Stamford Bridge for the Blues since April.

“His quality is there; he’s an incredibly talented player,” Potter said. “He’s been nearly there and obviously, scoring a goal like that is bound to help.

“I wouldn’t be able to score a goal like that to be fair, I can only imagine. It’s a fantastic strike and an indication of the quality he has, so I’m really pleased for him.”

Potter brushed off concerns about his side’s wastefulness in front of goal, having had 15 shots, including 11 on target, while he hinted they may rotate their squad for their final group game against Dinamo having already qualified.

The Blues take on Potter’s former club Brighton and Hove Albion on Saturday, followed by Dinamo (November 2), Arsenal in the Premier League (November 6) and Manchester City in the EFL Cup (November 9) in quick succession.

“We’re at home at Stamford Bridge [against Dinamo] and we’ll try our very best,” he said. “We want to win every game we play, that is the mentality we have to have.

“But clearly, we have a game at the weekend and another game the weekend after, so maybe we can rotate a little bit. But we will try our best.”

 

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