Aubameyang does little but score goals — just what Chelsea needed

Striker giving Potter plenty to ponder as he helps put Milan to the sword and somersaults in celebration against his former team
Aubameyang does little but score goals — just what Chelsea needed

ME AGAIN: Chelsea's Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang scores his side's second goal during a Group E soccer match between Chelsea FC and AC Milan, at Stamford Bridge stadium, in London Wednesday, Oct. 5, 2022. Pic: AP Photo/Ian Walton

CHELSEA 3 MILAN 0

PIERRE-EMERICK AUBAMEYANG had clearly not read the script, or was simply not prepared to copy Conor Gallagher's refusal to celebrate when the young Englishman scored against his former side Crystal Palace at the weekend.

Rather than a silent celebration, as Gallagher had done at Selhurst Park, Aubameyang made no attempt to hide his joy after scoring the second and decisive second goal against Milan, where he had spent two teenage years without breaking into the first team.

Not only did Aubameyang celebrate his goal with gusto, he did an acrobatic backflip as if to prove that at 33, he still has plenty in the tank.

He certainly has the happy knack of doing little apart from scoring goals, and this was his second in successive games, making a mockery of the idea that Chelsea's number-nine shirt was jinxed. He may have been signed by Thomas Tuchel as a last throw of the dice before the German was sacked, but the Gabon striker is proving to be a godsend for his successor Graham Potter, who has taken Chelsea back into contention for a place in the Champions League's last 16 after this comfortable win over mighty Milan, who started the day at the top of Group E.

Potter made one significant change from the side that won at Palace on Saturday, bringing Kalidou Koulibaly into his defence for the first time. But it was a defender on the right side of Chelsea's back three, Welsey Fofana, who made the breakthrough. The former Leicester man, who has not looked entirely comfortable in his first few games for Chelsea, was certainly in the thick of it during his half-hour or so before limping off injured. After Mason Mount had the first chance of the game with a low first-time shot that was saved at full-stretch by Ciprian Tatarusanu, it was Fofana who had the next chance to score, in the 20th minute, only to head Mount's corner kick horribly high over the bar.

A minute earlier he had been caught out of possession in a dangerous position for his side but was bailed out by Thiago Silva, and five minutes later, it was his captain who played an instrumental part in Fofana's goal. Silva had already had one powerful header tipped over by Tatarusanu and another blocked, but when he got his head to a third corner in quick succession, it was only half-cleared and after an almighty goalmouth scramble, the ball fell for Fofana to sidefoot it calmly over the line from close range. It was his first goal for the club, and his first since scoring for Leicester in the Europa League last March.

But his joy was shortlived as the young Frenchman was forced to limp off in the 38th minute after a clash with Rafael Leao.

Chelsea were good value for their lead at half-time, though it could have been different but for better finishing at both ends. Reuben Loftus-Cheek gave Raheem Sterling a clear run on goal but the England forward dithered and Pierre Kalulu was able to dispossess him. In stoppage time, Milan should have equalised when Leao burst into the penalty area to set up Charles De Ketelaere, whose first time shot was brilliantly blocked by Kepa Arrizabalaga. Rade Krunic should have drilled home the loose ball, but it was somehow deflected over the bar.

Chelsea took control of the game and ensured all three points with two killer blows in the space of five minutes shortly after half-time. Aubameyang mirrored his performance from Saturday, where he was hardly involved except for one moment of magic when he put the ball in the net. This time it was a poacher's goal from close range, sidefooting home a right-wing cross from Reece James, who refused to give up on a seemingly lost cause when Ben Chilwell overhit a cross from the left. Cue the celebrations.

And James got his own reward, and a goal of his own, when he made it 3-0 in the 61st minute. Sterling advanced on goal before playing in James to his right, who thundered his shot high inside the near post. It was similar to a goal he scored in Chelsea's 4-0 rout of Juventus last November, and his all-round performance added to the widely-held belief that he is the best player in his position in England, if not Europe.

From that point on, the game was up for the Italians, who started the day as leaders of Group E but are now third behind Chelsea and new group leaders Red Bull Salzburg, who had beaten Dinamo Zagreb earlier.

Stefano Pioli had seen enough and made a rash of substitutions, sending on former Anfield cult hero Divock Origi to replace Olivier Giroud, who had endured a miserable return to the club with whom he had won this competition only 17 months ago. Giroud was given a warm reception beforehand by Chelsea supporters, but they have another number nine now – and Aubameyang is their new hero.

CHELSEA (4-3-3): Kepa 7; Fofana 7 (Chalobah 38), Silva 8, Koulibaly 7; James 8, Loftus-Cheek 7, Kovacic 7 (Jorginho 65), Chilwell 7; Mount 6 (Havertz 74) Sterling 7 (Broja 74) Aubameyang 7 (Gallagher 65).

MILAN (4-2-3-1): Tatarusanu 6; Dest 6, Kalulu 6, Tomori 6, Ballo-Toure 5; Bennacer 7 (Pobega 72), Tonali 6; Krunic 5, De Ketelaere 6 (Rebic 65), Leao 7 (Brahim 72); Giroud 5 (Origi 72) 

Referee: Danny Makkelie (Netherlands) 9/10

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