Kai Havertz penalty drama helps Chelsea edge past Borussia Dortmund | Champions League
When the decisive moments arrived on a night of rare fortune for Graham Potter, Raheem Sterling fooling Borussia Dortmund with an air shot, Kai Havertz overcomplicating a penalty, perhaps it was inevitable that Chelsea had not taken the easy route to goal.
Yet it was never going to be simple with this team. Goalscoring has been an issue for Chelsea all season and it had seemed their wasteful finishing would undermine them again. That they were better than Dortmund was not in doubt. But the question was whether Chelsea could make their superiority count and, as the misses piled up, it was hard not to wonder if it would be the same old story.
For once, though, Potter was a lucky manager. And deservedly so. Five days ago Potter seemed to be on the brink. Now Chelsea’s owners will feel they were right to stand by their man. Potter has trusted in his coaching ability and Chelsea, who bossed Dortmund throughout, will feel anything is possible after reaching the Champions League quarter-finals thanks to goals from Havertz and Sterling.
The delay to kick-off, caused by Dortmund getting stuck in traffic, had no impact on Chelsea. They were straight into their tackles, Kalidou Koulibaly dispossessing Jude Bellingham, and made sure to feed off the crowd’s energy.
It was never going to be a quiet evening. In fact it was an occasion when the fans had to stay with Potter and the early signs were positive: Chelsea alert and intense, the pace blistering, the best thing about Dortmund seemingly the yellow smoke billowing from the away end.
The visitors did not resemble a side on a 10-match winning streak. Dortmund were cold, Julian Brandt limping off to make way for Gio Reyna after five minutes, and their high line would soon come under immediate pressure from Sterling.
But there are no guarantees with Chelsea. João Félix was unfortunate when Alexander Meyer, starting in goal because Gregor Kobel was only fit enough for a place on the bench, denied him after a weaving run. Yet Havertz was a problem for Chelsea, who needed the German to be more clinical with two decent chances.
The lack of a breakthrough unnerved Chelsea. Dortmund tried to slow the tempo, Emre Can dropping back to support Nico Schlotterbeck and Niklas Süle in central defence, and threatened in flashes. Marco Reus’s free-kick drew a fine save from Kepa Arrizabalaga. Reyna caused a few problems.
But Sébastien Haller was isolated against Chelsea’s back three. Potter had picked the right team. Reece James was back at right wing-back and, with Thiago Silva injured and Benoît Badiashile ineligible, the gamble on Marc Cucurella at left centre-back was looking inspired.
Cucurella had not been involved since the first leg and he is not popular with supporters. Yet the £62m Spaniard was giving nothing away and nor were Chelsea. Süle’s booking for timewasting spoke volumes. Dortmund were creaking and they cracked when the outstanding Mateo Kovacic won a loose ball and charged down the left two minutes before the interval.
Ben Chilwell was ready when Kovacic ran out of room. The left wing-back drilled a low cross and there was Sterling, ready to produce a comical miskick. Dortmund looked confused. But it was vintage Sterling: useless and brilliant all at once. He tried again, scampering on to his left foot, and this time he crashed a shot into the roof of the net. Billy Reid, Potter’s No 2, turned and bellowed into the west London sky.
Dortmund’s 1-0 lead had always felt shaky. Now the momentum was with Chelsea, although they needed Chilwell to spot the danger when Reus almost released Raphaël Guerreiro. The desire was faultless, James pumping his teammates up, and Chelsea would make a fast start to the second half.
Pressing drew errors in the Dortmund defence. Sterling turned and found Chilwell, whose cross clipped Marius Wolf’s left hand. It was always going to be a penalty once the referee, Danny Makkelie, had gone to the monitor for a closer look.
Naturally Chelsea still made it complicated. They had not scored more than once in a game since 27 December and had put Havertz – two goals since Christmas – on penalties following Jorginho’s move to Arsenal.
It was not a surprise when Havertz took a stop-start run-up before sending Meyer the wrong way and the ball against the post. Yet play did not resume. Makkelie was receiving further guidance from the VAR. Encroachment. Three Chelsea players had gone too early but it made no difference. The penalty had to be taken and Havertz went through his routine again, this time making sure to keep the ball inside the post.
Behind on aggregate for the first time, Dortmund stirred. Bellingham sidefooted wide. Wolf tested Arrizabalaga. Chelsea’s new-look back three of Wesley Fofana, Koulibaly and Cucurella fell back. Yet Chelsea held on during six added minutes.