Champions League: Zakaria debuts as Chelsea down Dinamo Zagreb

Chelsea hosted Dinamo Zagreb in the UEFA Champions League at Stamford Bridge on Wednesday night
Prior to the match, Chelsea had already qualified as Group E winners and Zagreb needed a win for a slot in the Europa League
Goals from Raheem Sterling and debutant Denis Zakaria ensured a turnaround from the hosts and three points

With a 2-1 victory over Dinamo Zagreb at Stamford Bridge, Denis Zakaria scored the game-winning goal on his Chelsea debut to give the Blues their fourth consecutive Champions League triumph.

Since signing on loan from Juventus during the most recent transfer window, Zakaria has had difficulty making an impact on the first team, but his goal in the 30th minute, which came after Raheem Sterling had cancelled out Bruno Petkovic’s opening goal, proved crucial.

Prior to the match on Wednesday, the Blues had already won Group E and advanced to the knockout rounds. Ben Chilwell, however, gave Chelsea cause for concern when he suffered a hamstring injury late in the game.

However, Dinamo was unable to mount a comeback and was eliminated from Europe after placing last, while Chelsea responded in a promising way following a 4-1 setback to Brighton and Hove Albion on Saturday.

After Chelsea failed to clear Sadegh Moharrami’s right-wing cross, Petkovic headed Dinamo into the lead in the seventh minute, but the Blues quickly drew equal.

Sterling received a pass from Aubameyang, who then danced onto his left foot and calmly found the bottom-left corner.

Chelsea players celebrates after Raheem Sterling scored the equaliser against Dinamo Zagreb in the UEFA Champions League at Stamford Bridge. | PHOTO: Courtesy |

Sterling had a fantastic opportunity to score when he headed Kai Havertz’s center over from close range, but Chelsea went ahead when Zakaria scored from a similar distance following another cutback pass from the German.

Josip Sutalo’s header was deflected away by Edouard Mendy after the break, and Aubameyang’s curling shot was deflected by Livakovic before Chilwell missed the target from a close angle.

Chelsea players celebrate after Denis Zakaria scored the second against Dinamo Zagreb in the UEFA Champions League at Stamford Bridge. | PHOTO: Courtesy |

Mason Mount’s whipped free-kick was stopped by another excellent Livakovic save in the dying moments, although the victory was somewhat overshadowed by Chilwell’s injury because he had to be assisted off the field by medical personnel.

Since Roberto Di Matteo in the 2011–12 season, Potter is the only Chelsea manager to go undefeated in his first five Champions League games. Potter has adapted well to life in European football.

Di Matteo led the Blues to European glory in that campaign, and after Chelsea went 11 home games unbeaten in the competition’s group stage, last dropping a match to Valencia in September 2019. Potter will be looking to repeat the achievement.

Even though Chelsea is currently sixth in the Premier League after a disappointing start, they will at least feel confident going into Monday’s last-16 draw.

Some have questioned whether striker Sterling should start for England at the World Cup due to his declining importance in the Chelsea team in recent weeks.

Only Wayne Rooney (30) has more Champions League goals among English players than Sterling (20) after his equalizer, despite the 27-year-old missing a golden opportunity in the first half.

Chelsea will next be in action on Sunday when they host Arsenal in the Premier League in a much awaited London derby, while Dinamo are at home to Sibenik on the same day.

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