LONDON (AP) — Graham Potter’s first game as Chelsea manager ended in a disappointing 1-1 draw at home against Salzburg in the Champions League on Wednesday, leaving the English team facing an uphill task to advance from its group.
Raheem Sterling, deployed as an attacking left wing back in an early tactical call by Potter, curled home a fine finish to give Chelsea the lead in the 48th minute at Stamford Bridge.
Chelsea failed to put away a number of half-chances and was made to pay by the Austrian champions, who equalized through Noah Okafor in the 75th.
Having lost 1-0 at Dinamo Zagreb last week, Chelsea has just one point from its opening two matches in Group E and now faces back-to-back matches against AC Milan after the international break.
Salzburg has drawn both of its games 1-1.
It was Potter’s first experience of the Champions League as a coach after replacing Thomas Tuchel at the helm last week and he used a raft of formations in a shape-shifting Chelsea set-up, highlighting his tactical flexibility.
Thiago Silva, the 37-year-old Brazil center back, always appeared under duress at the back of that system and he slipped just before completing one of his many slide tackles, allowing Salzburg to advance down the right for its goal.
Ultimately, Chelsea encountered many of the same troubles that had dogged Tuchel’s last few weeks at the club. That included failing to gel in the final third, despite looking fluid in its 3-4-3 set-up and comfortable on the ball in the first half.
Salzburg striker Benjamin Sesko mustered the only shot on target of a stodgy first half, forcing Kepa Arrizabalaga into a solid save.
The interval settled the hosts and a compelling move yielded the breakthrough almost immediately.
Reece James spun his marker and raced down the right before setting Mason Mount free, and the England midfielder sent an early ball into the box.
Salzburg missed the chance to clear and Sterling pounced on the loose ball at the far post, took a steadying touch and then curled sweetly into the far corner.
Okafor went close with a flicked header as Salzburg pressed, but Kepa was sharp enough to smother the deft effort.
Chelsea always appeared shaky after losing the ball and that instability proved costly when Salzburg broke at pace and punished the hosts with Okafor’s equalizer.
Philipp Kohn produced a point-blank save from Hakim Ziyech near the end to deny Chelsea after a smart break between Armando Broja and Sterling.
“We’re disappointed with the result,” Potter said. “I thought the boys gave everything. We scored a good goal, but lost a bit in the second half.
“Personality and application was good. We will get better.”
The game was preceded by a minute’s silence as a tribute to Queen Elizabeth II, who died at the age of 96 last week.
Salzburg’s fans walked in silence to Stamford Bridge from a nearby underground station as a sign of respect for the queen.
“We remain united with the people of the UK in this time of grief,” Salzburg said on its Twitter page.
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