What Mason Mount And Reece James Did After Fikayo Tomori Red Card As Chelsea Take Back Control
After their opening two group stage matches – a defeat to Dinamo Zagreb and a draw at home to Red Bull Salzburg – and a change of head coach, Chelsea’s chances of reaching the Champions League knockout stages appeared slim.
It’s a dramatic turnaround achieved by Graham Potter and his players – and they have done it the hard way by beating AC Milan, the Serie A champions, home and away.
Last week’s victory over the Rosssineri at Stamford Bridge was impressive as it sent a statement that Chelsea, despite all the upheaval of recent months, could still produce on the biggest stage.
Victory at San Siro was achieved in a different fashion.
There was early pressure from the hosts’ that needed to be overcome and Chelsea did that without conceding a genuine chance.
Then came the moment of quality that swung the game dramatically in the Blues’ favour and stunned Milan.
Reece James weighted a pass behind centre-back Fikayo Tomori and Mason Mount raced onto it.
There were a couple of tugs on Mount’s shoulder from Tomori and referee Daniel Seibert pointed to the penalty spot.
A perplexed Tomori gesticulated angrily before Mount offered his friend and former teammate a few understanding words and a pat on the back as he left the pitch.
There was also a nod of appreciation from Mount to James for the pass and a quick hand clap between the academy graduates.
Jorginho had taken the ball by this point and was waiting to dispatch his spot-kick calmly to give the Blues a much-needed lead. From that point on, victory wasn’t in too much doubt for Chelsea.
Milan threatened sporadically – Olivier Giroud missed one golden opportunity with a header – but when Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang finished expertly following a neat attacking move, the home side were beaten.
“The only disappointing aspect of the evening was the injury suffered by James in the second period. The England international went down after a challenge with Theo Hernandez and was soon forced off despite trying to continue.”We’re hoping he’ll be ok,” Potter said after the game.
24-48 hours because it’s too early to tell you anything more than that. The opening weeks of the season weren’t easy for Mount.
Chelsea’s two-time Player of the Season struggled for form and some questioned his place in the side.
Mount only featured for 45 minutes at San Siro yet in that time he won the penalty – a moment that ultimately decided the contest – and it was his pass that Aubameyang finished cooly.
“He’s really important,” said Potter.
“He was on a yellow card and he’s played a lot of football so at half-time we gave him a breather. He was fantastic. He was a constant threat. I’ve been really pleased with him from the start. He’s a really important player.”
On his role under the new Chelsea head coach, Mount added: “Not too much has changed, I’m just trying to get in the box and connect midfield to the strikers and be free. It’s been happening for me in the last couple of games – I want more.”
There were a few raised eyebrows when Chelsea opted to sign Aubameyang from Barcelona on transfer deadline day.
Aubameyang appears completely at ease in Potter’s system and after overcoming a jaw injury sustained in an attack on his home while still in the Spanish city, he has netted three goals in his previous three matches.
His first goal for the Blues came against Crystal Palace and was an instinctive volleyed finish on the turn in the penalty area.
His second arrived a week ago at Stamford Bridge when Milan visited and was a simple tap-in from close range following a cross from James.
His goal at San Siro highlighted Aubameyang’s off-the-ball movement. When Mount slipped the ball behind the home side’s backline, it was likely for Raheem Sterling.
“We’ve not done anything special, it’s all down to him,” Potter said.
“We spoke before that he came from a difficult summer so it’s been a case of building up his match minutes up and the more he gets the stronger he gets, and the more we understand him the more he understands us.
Everyone knows his quality and it’s great for him. He looks like he is enjoying his football.”