James runs riot as Leao’s Chelsea audition falls flat
At Stamford Bridge, much was expected of AC Milan’s prized winger, but it was the hosts’ rampaging wing-back who stole the show in a 3-0 win.
Chelsea boosted their chances of reaching the Champions League last 16 with a 3-0 victory over AC Milan at Stamford Bridge on Wednesday.
Reece James was the star of the show, scoring and assisting in six second-half minutes, with summer signings Wesley Fofana and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang also on the scoresheet.
Chelsea have moved off the bottom of Group E, and their qualification hopes are still alive and well.
Reece James: The Winner
Another player of the match award for him to add to his tally. James is quickly becoming one of the most complete footballers on the planet, let alone a wing-back. After keeping the insanely fast Leao quiet in the first half, James flipped the script to become the attacking protagonist after the break, crossing for Aubameyang before slamming the ball into the roof of the net himself to make it 3-0.
Despite the fact that Edouard Mendy was available again, Kepa repaid that faith when it was needed. Chelsea’s attacking performance will be remembered, but Kepa made a crucial intervention with the score at 1-0, denying Charles De Ketelaere with a spectacular one-handed save from close range. Who knows what would have happened if that had gone through?
Some might have questioned the manager’s team selection, but he got things right tactically to counter Milan’s main threats. Leao’s pace was matched by James, Fofana, and substitute Trevoh Chalobah, Sandro Tonali’s creativity was muffled by Loftus-Cheek and Kovacic’s tenacity, and Kepa was there when it mattered.
Rafael Leao: The Losers
Much of the pre-match talk revolved around this being a possible Stamford Bridge audition for Leao, who has been linked with a big-money move to Chelsea in the near future. Despite his early threat to dominate the game, the Portugal international was largely kept at bay and was visibly disappointed to be replaced with 20 minutes remaining.
This was supposed to be Tomori’s glorious homecoming, a chance to show Chelsea what they had been missing since he won the Scudetto at Milan after being dumped by the Blues 18 months ago. However, things did not go as planned. Despite the fact that a number of his usual defensive colleagues were injured, Milan looked ragged at the back in the build-up to each Chelsea goal – and Tomori was at fault for the second, failing to stop James’ cross to Aubameyang. A booking for dissent summed up a bad evening for the Chelsea academy product.
Salzburg Red Bull:
Red Bull Salzburg would have been hoping for a damp squib between these European heavyweights after moving to the top of the group with a comfortable victory over Dinamo Zagreb earlier in the evening. However, Chelsea’s victory opens up Group E and gives the big guns the advantage over the next three matchdays.
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