“Special Night” exonerates Chelsea’s Potter

LONDON: Chelsea manager Graham Potter breathed a sigh of relief after his side finally made a return to a world record for a season in the transfer market by reaching the quarter-finals of the Champions League on Tuesday.

The Blues recouped a 1-0 deficit in the first leg by beating Borussia Dortmund 2-0 at Stamford Bridge, thanks to goals on either side of half-time from Raheem Sterling and Kai Havertz.

Potter’s job appeared to be on the line after his side left Europe after a terrible run of form in the Premier League and early eliminations from both domestic cup competitions.

Chelsea’s new owner has remained loyal to the former Brighton manager despite just three wins in 16 games before the Dortmund visit.

Co-owners Todd Boehly and Behdad Eghbali were all smiles as they walked the pitch after enjoying the best result of their tenure after spending over £500m ($600m) on new players.

“Things are never bad forever, but sometimes it felt that way,” Potter said of the pressure he’s been under over the past few weeks.

However, Potter still has issues to contend with.

Chelsea’s waste in terms of the two games that left the tie in limbo until the end has yet to be resolved.

Sterling scored the decisive opening goal just before half-time, but also missed many other big chances.

Havertz, meanwhile, was handed a lifeline when his penalty came back off the post.

The Germany international capitalized on a second chance after a VAR check revealed Dortmund players had interfered on his first try.

But there was finally some relief for the Potter, who has now worked his way up from manager in the ninth tier of English football to the bottom eight of Europe’s biggest stage.

“It was a special night,” Potter added. “Winning a game to get into the last eight of the Champions League is at the top of my career in terms of wins and games.”

Chelsea’s two previous Champions League-winning campaigns in 2012 and 2021 came through unexpected runs after he sacked a manager mid-season.

With over a month to go before the quarterfinals, it’s time for a third bolt of lightning if Potter can generate more cohesion from his cast of expensively assembled stars.

If there’s work to be done up front, Potter seems to be laying a solid foundation at least in the back.

Dortmund joined London on a 10-game winning streak but were largely kept at bay save for Marco Reus’ first-half free-kick that forced a flying save from Kepa Arrizabalaga.

The return of Reece James, Ben Chilwell and Wesley Fofana from injuries has made a big difference as Chelsea recorded their fifth clean sheet in nine games against the Bundesliga title challenger.

“It’s not easy,” Dortmund coach Edin Terzic said of Chelsea’s defeat. “They not only spent money but also brought in some high quality players. One senses that they are always dangerous.” –AFP

https://www.thesundaily.my/home/special-night-relieves-pressure-on-chelsea-s-potter-PE10722580 “Special Night” exonerates Chelsea’s Potter

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