A PAIR of screamers by Mateo Kovacic and Kai Havertz sent Chelsea roaring into the Champions League knockout stages.

Salzburg goalkeeper Philipp Kohn and poor finishing threatened to deny the Blues the win they needed to seal qualification with a game to spare.

Havertz scored the winner from distance

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Havertz scored the winner from distanceCredit: Getty
Chelsea secured their place in the knockouts

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Chelsea secured their place in the knockoutsCredit: EPA
Kovacic got the opening goal of the game

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Kovacic got the opening goal of the gameCredit: EPA
Adamu got the equaliser for Salzburg

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Adamu got the equaliser for SalzburgCredit: AFP

And when Thiago Silva’s error allowed Junior Adamu to equalise early in the second, the Austrian champions were dreaming of a big win of their own.

But Havertz provided a timely reminder of his class with a wonderful goal that ultimately decided a compelling game.

Chelsea are still yet to lose under Graham Potter and this was one of their best performances of his short reign.

Not least because this result ended Salzburg’s own long unbeaten run.

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Bayern Munich and AC Milan were among the teams who had paid Champions League visits to Mozart’s birthplace and been unable to break a non-losing streak at home for the Austrian champions that stood at 40 matches in all competitions.

Potter, who seems to have as many tactical plans as the great composer had concertos, shuffled his pack again.

But in the end it was two moments of individual brilliance that won the game.

Chelsea were a bit pants until underwear model Kovacic opened his legs and showed his class.

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On Saturday Kovacic gifted his shirt and socks to fans and left the Stamford Bridge pitch on Saturday in just socks, boots and briefs,much to the shock of TV pundit Peter Schmeichel.

This time he stunned Salzburg with a beautiful shot from the edge of the box that would, with better finishing, have set the Blues on the way to a more comfortable victory.

They started well enough.

Inside two minutes, former Brighton defender Bernardo showed why Potter was happy to let him leave the Amex in 2021 and return for a second spell at Salzburg.

The Brazilian under-nutted his header back and Havertz was entitled to go for the ball. Kohn rushed out to save the day and took a knee to his head for his trouble.

But the visitors soon became predictable and slow until a stroke of fortune and a slice of inspiration changed the game.

Maximilian Wober challenged Havertz in the box and was unlucky to see the ball go straight to Kovacic.

But the Croatian’s finish from 18 yards, hit first time with the outside of his left foot, was sensational.

Moments later, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang headed a corner on to Wober and the Salzburg left back was grateful to see Kohn scoop the ball away.

Chelsea were suddenly playing with a bit more verve and should have been three-up before the break.

First, a lovely move ended with Aubameyang hesitating slightly and Kohn rushing off his line to smother the shot.

Then Havertz headed a Conor Gallagher cross straight at the Salzburg ‘keeper, who almost allowed the weakness of the finish to bamboozle him.

At the other end, Kepa Arrizabalaga had not made a challenging save as the home side wasted their rare openings with poor shooting.

There was just time for Kohn to take another blow to the head, this time from Aubameyang, before making another save from the same player. 

His team was relieved to hear the half-time bell only one behind on the scorecard.

The home fans were less than happy two minutes into the second half when Kovacic’s accidental handball was – rightly – adjudged unworthy of a penalty. 

But they were ecstatic soon afterwards. Thiago Silva stepped out to make a challenge, failed to win the ball and so left a big gap for Junior Adamu to meet Wober’s lovely cross.

1-1, game on.

Kohn made another save, from his own defender Strahinja Pavlovic, then Adamu cleared a Jorginho header off the line.

But when Havertz received a pass from Christian Pulisic, he curled a gorgeous shot into the top corner where not even the Salzburg ‘keeper could stop it.

Salzburg were not done, and Kepa made his first good stop of the night when he denied substitute Benjamin Sesko.

Then the Spaniard misjudged a cross and Silva intercepted Pavlovic’s goalbound header.

It was exciting stuff. Pulisic could have killed the game off, but fluffed his shot. Arrizbalaga made a decent late stop from Amar Dedic and then flapped at another cross.

Salzburg piled on the pressure and the Chelsea ‘keeper lost his cool after Sesko fouled Silva.

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But the home side could not find a third equaliser across the two games in the six minutes of stoppage time.

So a goal from Havertz proved decisive, just as it did in the 2021 final of this competition. And deservedly so.


https://www.thesun.co.uk/sport/20222756/rb-salzburg-1-chelsea-2-kai-havertz-champions-league/