Chelsea outclass Italian champions at Stamford Bridge
Fofana scores and then goes off injured
Aubameyang and James add goals after half-time
Three games into the Graham Potter era at Chelsea and it has lift off.
This was much more of what the new head coach wants as they took AC Milan apart and emphatically revived their hopes of qualifying for the last-16 of the Champions League. In doing so they inflicted the Italian champions' heaviest-ever defeat in this competition.
The two sides meet again at the San Siro next week and if Chelsea perform like this they will once more collect the three points against Milan and especially with Reece James in this kind of irrepressible form.
The debate over whether Trent Alexander-Arnold should or should not play for England is becoming increasingly tedious – and uncomfortably entrenched – but 24 hours after the Liverpool full-back scored a sumptuous free-kick, also in the Champions League, James topped that with an outstanding all-round performance to remind everyone why he is rated so highly by Gareth Southgate and is deservedly first-choice.
Milan were simply terrified of him. In fact both James and Alexander-Arnold will probably both go to Qatar and especially if Kyle Walker is out injured as is now feared.
For Potter, after a stuttering draw against Red Bull Salzburg and a late, fortuitous win against Crystal Palace, this was the kind of confident, all-round, creative performance he will have craved and especially on this stage where he knows he needs to establish himself. Chelsea were more vibrant and positive and attacking and the crowd responded.
While James was the stand-out performer – at one point Chelsea had five academy graduates on the pitch and six when Milan’s Fikayo Tomori is added – there were also impressive displays from players at the other end of the age scale.
At 38, the imperious Thiago Silva just did not give former Chelsea striker Olivier Giroud a kick while 33-year-old Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang looked back to his predatory best.
In effect, even at the mid-way stage of the group, it felt a must-win for Chelsea and the way they seized that opportunity will have pleased Potter the most. He dealt with the pressure and so did his team.
Dressed in all black including a natty roll-neck jumper, Potter undoubtedly looked the part. And so did Chelsea as they surged into the lead mid-way through the first-half. Silva had made an eye-catching start, snapping into a tackle on danger man Rafael Leao, who Chelsea have been tracking and who would later trudge off despondent as he was substituted, which was lapped up by the home fans.
Milan then failed to heed two warnings from Silva headers. Ciprian Tatarusanu tipped the first over, with the second striking a defender. The third, also from a corner, was pushed out by the Romanian goalkeeper but only back into a scrum of players with Aubameyang scuffling to try to turn the ball home.
It eventually broke to Wesley Fofana and he finished with a low shot to claim his first Chelsea goal.
Unfortunately Fofana’s joy was quickly tempered as he limped off injured, after a tangle with Leao, with concerns that he had again hurt his troublesome knee. He will be scanned on Thursday but Potter was clearly worried.
Milan had themselves looked confident and attacked Chelsea, but they were suddenly ragged in possession as the blue shirts swarmed round them.
Even so they should have grabbed a lifeline just before half-time when Leao showed his skill and strength as he burst through two tackles from the left and teed up Rade Krunic.
With the goal beckoning, the Bosnian midfielder surely had to score but his side-footed shot was weak and Kepa Arrizabalaga did well to shovel it away for a corner.
Would that have made a difference? Given how well Chelsea were playing the answer is probably not. But it was a let-off and one they capitalised on as they extended their lead with two goals in five second-half minutes to end any doubt.
James took over. He had been at the heart of everything even before he claimed an assist and a goal. Milan were, frankly, lazy in defence as Fode Ballo-Toure ambled out to try and stop him retrieving the ball and crossing – which the wing-back did – with Tomori failing to cut it out. There was Aubameyang to tuck the ball home from inside the six-yard area.
Chelsea were even more rampant and James delivered again from the right, whipping in an early cross that was met by Raheem Sterling on the volley but he could not keep the ball down.
Having been the provider, James became the finisher as Chelsea quickly won the ball back through Ben Chilwell, who appears to finally be on his way back, with Sterling smartly waiting for the overlap inside the area.
And so he teed James up who took a touch before crashing an unerringly fierce shot high into the net between goalkeeper and near post. “He’s one of our own,” gleefully rang around the stadium with Potter – not one for hyperbole – going on to say the 22-year-old can become a Chelsea “legend”. In fact that is a reasonable statement.
— Football on BT Sport (@btsportfootball) October 5, 2022
The goal was a cue for Potter to make changes and while the Milan fans did not relent in their support their team was beaten; well beaten as Chelsea moved from bottom of the group to second, above them.
An evening that could have been edgy and fraught – and could even have led to a bout of early recrimination – instead developed into a statement victory.
Chelsea 3 AC Milan 0 – as it happened
Graham Potter's verdict
It was a good night for us. The application and attitude of the players was fantastic. I thought we were a little nervous at the start, but we got control of it and offered a bit of threat. The first goal was important. Overall, can’t complain – clean sheet, three goals, great personality in the players.
We’ll have to scan Wesley’s knee tomorrow. That’s the one disappointing thing about the evening.
Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang speaks
It was not an easy game – they played well in the first half – but we kept the intensity high and we were dominant and confident. I’m feeling good [at Chelsea], I’ve been made to feel very welcome.
The first goal was really important; that gave us strength and confidence. The mood is very good at the moment and we’ll try to keep it up.
Full time Chelsea 3 AC Milan 0
An emphatic win for Chelsea, who overran a very disappointing Milan side. Wesley Fofana scored his first goal for the club before going off injured in the first half, and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Reece James put Chelsea out of sight after the break.
The result means Chelsea leapfrog Milan to go second in the group, a point behind Salzburg. These two meet again in Milan on Tuesday; on this evidence, Chelsea will fancy their chances.
86 min Chelsea 3 AC Milan 0
Nothing much is happening. Both teams are going through the motions, probably conscious of the absurd schedule over the next month or so. There's no point charging round at full pelt in a dead game.
82 min Chelsea 3 AC Milan 0
Milan take a short corner on the left and end up going back all the way to the halfway line. A triumph for all concerned.
80 min Chelsea 3 AC Milan 0
The match is petering out. I doubt Chelsea can believe how easy this has been.
77 min Chelsea 3 AC Milan 0
This has been a perfect night for Chelsea - not just the victory but the manner of it, which should mean they have nothing to fear when they go to Milan next week.
74 min Chelsea 3 AC Milan 0
More changes for Chelsea. Kai Havertz replaces Mason Mount and Armando Broja is on for Raheem Sterling. Both Mount and Sterling were terrific.
73 min Chelsea 3 AC Milan 0
Three more changes for Milan. Brahim Diaz, Divock Origi and Tommaso Pobega replace Rafael Leao, Olivier Giroud and Ismael Bennacer.
71 min Chelsea 3 AC Milan 0
Thiago Silva is booked for a foul on Leao.
70 min Chelsea 3 AC Milan 0
Group E looks a whole lot better for Chelsea now. They are in second place, above Milan on head-to-head record and one point behind Salzburg.
More from Matt Law
Milan's performance has been almost as bad as Pioli's suit-trainer combo. The trousers are too short and the bright white trainers are too big. Just wrong. Chelsea's subs means they now have five Academy graduates on the pitch.
From Matt Law at Stamford Bridge
AC Milan haven't been able to cope with Reece James tonight and he's just put Chelsea three goals up with a lovely finish, having assisted for Aubameyang minutes earlier. If Trent Alexander-Arnold sent a message to England manager Gareth Southgate, then James has tonight.
65 min Chelsea 3 AC Milan 0
And a couple of changes for Chelsea as well. Conor Gallagher and Jorginho replace Kovacic and Aubameyang.
65 min Chelsea 3 AC Milan 0
Two substitutions for Milan: Matteo Gabbia and Ante Rebic replace De Ketelaere and Krunic.
62 min Chelsea 3 AC Milan 0
Two of the best players on the field combined for the third goal. Sterling collected a loose ball 20 yards out and played in the overlapping James, who took a touch and launched the ball over Tatarusanu. That's a lovely finish from a quite outstanding footballer.
Chelsea 3 AC Milan 0 (James 62) It's a rout!
59 min Chelsea 2 AC Milan 0
Chelsea break from a Milan corner. Sterling tries to play in Aubameyang but Kalulu makes a vital block.
58 min Chelsea 2 AC Milan 0
Chelsea deserve to be two goals ahead. They've been much the better side against an underwhelming - and that's being kind - Milan.
56 min Chelsea 2 AC Milan 0
Chilwell overhit a cross from the left but it was collected by James on the right. He curled a wicked ball that was missed by Tomori, who should have done better, and volleyed in from close range by Aubameyang.
Chelsea 2 AC Milan 0 (Aubameyang 56) Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang makes it two!
Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang doubles Chelsea's lead from close range to lift the roof at Stamford Bridge! ⚽️
Group E is looking a lot healthier for the Blues at the moment! 📈#UCL pic.twitter.com/2gAa839Lab
— Football on BT Sport (@btsportfootball) October 5, 2022
53 min Chelsea 1 AC Milan 0
It's been a scruffy start to the second half. Milan are having more of the ball without looking particularly dangerous.
50 min Chelsea 1 AC Milan 0
Chalobah tries a spectacular overhead kick from the edge of the area. Goalkick to Milan.
49 min Chelsea 1 AC Milan 0
Tomori is a bit lucky to avoid a yellow card after chopping down James.
47 min Chelsea 1 AC Milan 0
Chelsea pick up where they left off. Sterling plays a nice give-and-go with Mount on the edge of the area before being crowded out by Tomori and Tonali.
46 min Chelsea 1 AC Milan 0
Milan begin the second half. As Matt Law reports, they were out early for the second half.
The AC Milan players are out early and being put through a quick warm-up ahead of kick-off for the second half.
Matt Law's analysis
Chelsea go in at the break a goal up, but nobody is quite sure how. Rade Krunic posted his miss of the season contender right on half-time, lifting the ball over the bar from four yards after Kepa had saved from De Ketelaere. Wesley Fofana gave Chelsea the lead but was later forced off with what looked like a knee injury.
Chelsea's forwards, Raheem Sterling, Mason Mount and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang were lively in the first half, during which they held a three-man summit during a break in play. Graham Potter used another stoppage to have a chat with Kalidou Koulibaly who had started nervously but seemed to grow into the half. Stefano Pioli has spent a lot of time moaning at the fourth official and it was striking how little Potter and his staff spoke to the officials on the touchline.
Half time Chelsea 1 AC Milan 0
A very good 45 minutes for Chelsea. Milan started confidently but as the match progressed Chelsea took control. Wesley Fofana scored his first goal for the club before going off with a knee injury, while Raheem Sterling caused Milan all kinds of problems. Milan were quiet in the final third until Rade Krunic missed a great chance on the stroke of half-time.
45+4 min Chelsea 1 AC Milan 0
Krunic misses a sitter! Leao made the chance with a scintillating slalom past three or four players on the left side of the area. Then he slid the ball across to De Ketelaere, whose shot was instinctively saved by Kepa. It rebounded to Krunic, who wafted over from close range.
45+1 min Chelsea 1 AC Milan 0
Mount stabs a lovely through pass to Sterling, who scurries away from Tonali, into the area, and is about to shoot when Kalulu slides in to make a brilliant challenge.
45 min Chelsea 1 AC Milan 0
Four minutes of added time. Chelsea are looking very comfortable.
42 min Chelsea 1 AC Milan 0
Bennacer is booked for pulling back Sterling. Milan can't cope with him.
41 min Chelsea 1 AC Milan 0
James and Sterling are destroying Milan on the right-hand side, with Rafael Leao loath to do the graveyard shift. After another good combination between the two, James' cross is headed clear.
39 min Chelsea 1 AC Milan 0
Kovacic is booked for a late tackle on Giroud.
37 min Chelsea 1 AC Milan 0
Fofana isn't fine - he hurt his right knee after an awkward landing and is limping off in tears. Trevoh Chalobah replaces him.
35 min Chelsea 1 AC Milan 0
There's a break in play while Fofana receives treatment. I think he's fine.
33 min Chelsea 1 AC Milan 0
Mason Mount has a goal disallowed for offside. It was a lovely finish, lobbed over Tatarusanu from a tight angle after good play from Sterling and Aubameyang, but he was beyond the last defender when the pass was played.
32 min Chelsea 1 AC Milan 0
Chelsea are starting to overrun Milan. In the last 15 minutes or so they have been much the better side.
29 min Chelsea 1 AC Milan 0
Sterling finds James in space down the right. He slides a low cross into the path of Mount, arriving at pace on the edge of the area. Mount smashes a first-time shot that is crucially blocked by Kalulu. That might well have been going in.
28 min Chelsea 1 AC Milan 0
That was a lovely moment for Fofana, who hasn't had the easiest start to life at Stamford Bridge. Chelsea look more comfortable now.
24 min Chelsea 1 AC Milan 0
Milan have looked so vulnerable at set-pieces and that's how the goal came about. Chilwell's corner was headed towards goal by the diving Thiago at the far post. Tatarusanu pushed it away, which led to an almighty scramble until eventually Fofana slid the ball into the net from six yards.
Chelsea 1 AC Milan 0 (Fofana 24) Wesley Fofana scores his first goal for Chelsea!
22 min Chelsea 0 AC Milan 0
A decent spell of pressure for Chelsea. Ballo-Toure is penalised for handball, which gives them a free-kick on the right wing. Mount's outswinger is headed towards goal by Thiago, 12 yards out, and Tatarusanu pushes it over the bar. It was a comfortable save.
21 min Chelsea 0 AC Milan 0
Mount's outswinging corner is shouldered over the bar by Fofana, who mistimed his attempted header at the near post.
20 min Chelsea 0 AC Milan 0
Fofana loses the ball to Giroud in a dangerous area, but Thiago gets him out of trouble with an emphatic challenge on Rafael Leao. The crowd loved that.
18 min Chelsea 0 AC Milan 0
Chelsea move the ball nicely across to James on the right. He flips a cross towards Aubameyang and Tomori stoops to head clear.
14 min Chelsea 0 AC Milan 0
Ballo-Toure is booked for a late, and needless, lunge at James.
14 min Chelsea 0 AC Milan 0
Milan look really confident in possession, particularly De Ketelaere and Leao. This is a good test for Chelsea.
11 min Chelsea 0 AC Milan 0
The tempo of the game is really good, and Milan have certainly come to play. After a slowish start, Chelsea are starting to enjoy a bit of possession themselves.
9 min Chelsea 0 AC Milan 0
Leao scorches past Fofana on the edge of the area but then losing his footing and falls over. Nothing came of it but that was a thrilling little run from Leao.
7 min Chelsea 0 AC Milan 0
Krunic is booked for a late tackle on Loftus-Cheek.
5 min Chelsea 0 AC Milan 0
Chelsea almost score with their first attack. Mount whips an excellent first-time shot from 25 yards that is pushed away by Tatarusanu, diving a long way to his left. Mount did really well because the pass from Aubameyang was slightly behind him.
From Matt Law
Bizarre scenes at Stamford Bridge just before kick off as fans are asked to observe a minute's silence for the victims of the Indonesia stadium tragedy. A whistle was blown in the stands after about 20 seconds and the period of silence was abandoned ahead of schedule.
3 min Chelsea 0 AC Milan 0
Milan have started confidently, popping the ball around and making themselves at home. Chelsea's formation is 3-4-2-1, as expected.
After a (poorly observed) minute's silence for those who died in the stadium tragedy in Indonesia, Chelsea get the match under way.
From Matt Law at Stamford Bridge
There are a couple of famous faces in the stands at Stamford Bridge tonight. Chelsea legend Gianfranco Zola and former AC Milan midfielder Clarence Seedorf are sat together in the row in front of the press box. Suffice to say it sparked a lot of camera phone activity from supporters in the vicinity of the pair.
The players are ready
Stamford Bridge is ready. Let's play!
Graham Potter's pre-match interview
It’s an important game, we know that. We want to play, be aggressive and get the crowd involved in the game. [Playing a back three] allows the boys to express themselves and be positive. We’re playing a tough opponent but the boys are in a good place and we’re looking forward to it.
Full time: Salzburg 1-0 Dinamo Zagreb
It's all over in Austria. After starting the group with 1-1 draws against Milan and Chelsea, Salzburg have got their first win - though they had a big scare when Zagreb's Josip Drmic had a goal disallowed for offside in injury-time.
There's a fair chance now that Chelsea's trip to Salzburg at the end of the month will decide which team reaches the last 16.
Rafael Leao, who is coveted by Chelsea, already has four goals and six assists this season. His battle with Reece James tonight will be fascinating.
Salzburg 1-0 Dinamo Zagreb
The other game in this group was an early kick-off. There are just over 10 minutes remaining in Austria, where the home side lead through a penalty from Noah Okafor. If it stays like that, Salzburg will go top of the group, at least for a couple of hours.
Analysis from Matt Law at Stamford Bridge
Kalidou Koulibaly has been given his first start under new head coach Graham Potter against what is familiar opposition for him in AC Milan. Koulibaly is preferred to Marc Cucurella, who is back from injury and on the substitutes' bench. But the Italian connection has not worked out for midfielder Jorginho, who has dropped down to the bench with Ruben Loftus-Cheek coming in to replace him.
Kalidou Koulibaly, who spent eight years in Serie A with Napoli, starts for the first time under Graham Potter tonight. Potter was full of praise for his attitude in the pre-match press conference.
I’ve been really impressed with him. As a person, he is honest, understands his situation in terms of having to wait a bit to play, which every player will say they are not so happy with. Then it’s how you respond and his response has been fantastic.
Graham Potter makes two changes to the Chelsea side that won at Crystal Palace on Saturday. Jorginho and Kai Havertz are replaced by Kalidou Koulibaly and Ruben Loftus-Cheek, which should mean a switch to a back three. There was some doubt about the fitness of Jorginho and Havertz, though they are both on the bench.
Milan make three changes, all enforced. Sergino Dest, Pierre Kalulu and Rade Krunic replace the injured trio of Davide Calabria, Simon Kjaer and Alexis Saelemaekers.
Chelsea (possible 3-4-2-1) Kepa; Fofana, Thiago Silva, Koulibaly; James, Loftus-Cheek, Kovacic, Chilwell; Sterling, Mount; Aubameyang.
Substitutes: Bettinelli, Mendy, Jorginho, Pulisic, Chalobah, Broja, Zakaria, Ziyech, Gallagher, Azpilicueta, Havertz, Cucurella.
AC Milan (4-2-3-1) Tatarusanu; Dest, Kalulu, Tomori, Ballo-Toure; Tonali, Bennacer; Krunic, De Ketelaere, Leao; Giroud.
Substitutes: Mirante, Jungdal, Brahim Diaz, Rebic, Origi, Pobega, Gabbia, Gala, Coubis.
Referee Danny Makkelie (Netherlands)
And welcome to Telegraph Sport’s live coverage of Chelsea v Milan at Stamford Bridge. This is a heavyweight clash between the current world champions and the reigning Italian champions, but Chelsea have no time to take in the grandeur of the occasion. After a poor start, one point from two games, they are bottom of what we thought would be a relatively comfortable group. Milan are top, having drawn away to Salzburg and beaten Dinamo Zagreb.
Tonight’s match is a chance for Chelsea to say hello to a couple of old friends, with Olivier Giroud and Fikayo Tomori likely to start. There may also be a future Chelsea star in the Milan side, as they are reportedly very keen on the exciting Portuguese winger Rafael Leao.
The last time these teams met in a competitive match (the Russian Railways Cup doesn’t count) Leao was four months old and none of us had heard of Roman Abramovich. On 26 October 1999, Dennis Wise scored a memorable equaliser in a 1-1 draw at the San Siro, probably the most famous goal of his Chelsea career.
Back then, the Champions League was an adventure for Chelsea; now it is an every-year occurrence. But it remains fresh and new for their coach Graham Potter - and for tonight’s opponents. Milan may be Champions League royalty, having won the competition seven times, but this is only their second appearance since 2013-14. After a fallow period, they are well and truly back. As they hope to show tonight.
Kick off is at 8pm.