Chelsea 1 Red Bull Salzburg 1: Blues’ shocking defending costs Graham Potter winning start after Raheem Sterling goal

    GRAHAM POTTER had never even been to a game of Champions League football until this one. 

    And Chelsea’s new manager is going to have to acquaint himself with Europe’s elite club competition pretty damned quickly if the 2021 European champions are to avoid a chastening group-stage exit. 

    Sterling gave Chelsea the lead shortly after half-time

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    Sterling gave Chelsea the lead shortly after half-timeCredit: Getty
    Potter had to settle for a point after his first game in charge of the Blues

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    Potter had to settle for a point after his first game in charge of the BluesCredit: Getty
    Okafor equalised later on for Salzburg as Chelsea were held at Stamford Bridge

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    Okafor equalised later on for Salzburg as Chelsea were held at Stamford BridgeCredit: Getty

    Salzburg striker Noah Okafor stunned Stamford Bridge with a late equaliser, after Raheem Sterling had netted the opening goal of the Potter era.

    And Chelsea now head into a double-header against AC Milan, bottom of Group E and needing a couple of positive results if they are to advance to the group stage. 

    Potter, a low-key man, was given a low-key entrance on his opening night at Stamford Bridge. 

    And although this was a far superior performance to last week’s defeat in Dinamo Zagreb – which sealed Thomas Tuchel’s fate – the result was another poor one. 

    It has been a strange introduction for Potter, tempted away from Brighton on the day The Queen died, and with this his only fixture in his first three-and-half weeks as Chelsea manager.   

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    With most of his squad away on international duty for the next fortnight, there will be precious little time to put things right. 

    Chelsea dominated for long spells but there were age-old problems for Potter to get to grips with – especially the curse of the No 9 shirt which already seems to be consuming its latest inhabitant Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang. 

    It was a night for commemoration – two Chelsea Pensioners laid wreaths for the late Queen, the Bridge sang ‘God Save The King’ despite UEFA refusing an official rendition and, unlike at Anfield, they managed a full minute’s silence. 

    The Champions League anthem was not played as, like the beeps on the self-service check-outs at Morrisons, it was deemed a disrespectful noise. 

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    Then on 21 minutes, the Chelsea faithful staged a minute’s applause for sacked manager Tuchel, who’d lifted the European Cup in 2021. 

    Pretty much the only person who wasn’t mentioned was Potter.

    The former Brighton boss is not one to make a fuss anyway but, given the period of national mourning, he wasn’t introduced to the crowd over the PA system and there was no acknowledgement from the crowd either. 

    Tuchel’s great triumph in Porto was only 16 months ago but that is a long, long time in Chelsea politics, of course. 

    Yet while Potter does not have the charisma, the celebrity or the stellar CV of most Chelsea managers, his appointment is an intriguing one. 

    A low-profile, over-achieving English manager getting a stab at a top job has huge novelty value. 

    And Potter benched Kalidou Koulibaly and Wesley Fofona, £105million worth of summer signings, and from the teamsheet, it looked as if he might be reverting to a back four. 

    It was though, a back three, with Sterling and Reece James both employed as attack-minded wing-backs. 

    Chelsea made a rapid start with Aubameyang – who’d at least had the decency to hide his face with a mask in Zagreb last week – passing up an early opportunity when he hooked wide from close range. 

    But Salzburg – whose own manager Matthias Jaissle was far more “showbiz” in his suit, white trainers and no socks – were as lively as their eye-catching young boss. 

    After Kai Havertz had whistled a shot just wide, Banjamin Sesko’s curling shot was turned around the post by an alert Kepa Arrizabalaga.  

    The result leaves Chelsea bottom of their Champions League group

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    The result leaves Chelsea bottom of their Champions League groupCredit: Getty
    It ended up a frustrating night for the new Chelsea boss

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    It ended up a frustrating night for the new Chelsea bossCredit: Alamy

    Sterling had enjoyed one or two decent moments in the first half, cutting in from the left, but he made his mark in the 48th minute.

    James fed Mason Mount, whose low centre evaded two Salzburg defenders and Aubameyang, and rolled to Sterling who bent a shot which was tucked into the bottom corner of the net with a goodnight kiss.

    Chelsea were playing some decent stuff now but there was still little end product. 

    Too often, enterprising moves were cut short when the ball reached either Aubameyang or Kai Havertz.

    And midway through the second half both of Chelsea’s forwards were hooked by Potter – with Armando Broja and Ruben Loftus-Cheek sent on in their place. 

    Broja, a favourite with Blues fans, almost scored within seconds but bent his shot wide and was ruled narrowly offside. 

    There was a scare for Potter’s men when Dijon Kameri whipped in a cross and Okafor headed straight at Kepa. 

    But minutes later, the Austrians made good on that warning. 

    Mateo Kovacic appeared to be fouled as they cleared their lines but as the Croatian midfielder lay prone, Salzburg fizzed forward. 

    And when Thiago Silva mistimed a tackle, Junior Adamu cut back for Okafor to drill home the 75th-minute leveller.

    There was almost an instant response when Loftus-Cheek was up-ended on the edge of the box and from Marc Cucurella’s free-kick, but James whistled one narrowly over the bar.

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    Kovacic was replaced by Hakim Ziyech, who was booed by large sections of the Chelsea support who feel, perhaps harshly, he downed tools on Tuchel. 

    Chelsea piled on the pressure but Broja snatched at his shot in injury-time, clearing the bar, and Salzburg had a very useful point. 

    Chelsea paid tribute to the memory of The Queen at Stamford Bridge

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    Chelsea paid tribute to the memory of The Queen at Stamford BridgeCredit: Getty
    Salzburg boss Jaissle led his side to an impressive draw in West London

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    Salzburg boss Jaissle led his side to an impressive draw in West LondonCredit: Getty

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