Chelsea qualified for the last 16 of the Champions League as Kai Havertz’s sumptuous strike earned a 2-1 win away to Salzburg.
Victory extended the Blues’ unbeaten run under new manager Graham Potter to nine games as they moved four points above the Austrian champions at the top of Group E.
Anything other than a victory for Dinamo Zagreb over AC Milan later on Tuesday will also guarantee top spot in the group for the 2021 European champions.
Chelsea’s bright start under Potter has been undermined by failing to turn their approach play into goals and that was the case once more in a dominant first 45 minutes.
Salzburg had not suffered defeat in their first four Champions League games of the season, but were grateful to goalkeeper Philipp Kohn for keeping the score down before the break.
Mateo Kovacic’s fine strike into the top corner gave Kohn no chance as he opened the scoring on 23 minutes.
But the German stopper won a personal duel with Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang with three stunning saves to deny the former Arsenal captain.
Havertz also had a header from close range parried by Kohn as Chelsea clicked into an attacking rhythm rarely seen during Potter’s first two months in charge.
The English side looked like they may live to regret not taking those chances as Salzburg equalised four minutes into the second half when Junior Adamu converted Maximilian Wober’s teasing cross in behind the Chelsea defence.
However, the visitors immediately responded as Kohn rushed out to deny Aubameyang once more before Adamu cleared Jorginho’s header off the line from a corner.
Chelsea finally got the second goal their performance deserved when Havertz cushioned Christian Pulisic’s pass into his path before curling in off the underside of the crossbar.
But Potter’s men had to withstand a late onslaught from Salzburg to hold out for all three points.
The in-form Kepa Arrizabalaga was forced to fly low to his left to turn Benjamin Sesko’s effort behind.
Kepa is finally beginning to deliver on his price tag as the world’s most expensive goalkeeper following his move from Athletic Bilbao in 2018.
But the Spaniard was bailed out by Thiago Silva’s goal line clearance after he was beaten to a cross by Strahinja Pavlovic.
Kepa was called on again in the closing stages to save from Dijon Kameri and Amar Dedic, but Chelsea held out to ensure they will be in next month’s draw for the last 16.
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