The clouds have parted over Stamford Bridge – at least for now. Having not won two games in a row since October, or scored twice in a game since October or scored an open play goal at home since 2022, the second-leg revival against Borussia Dortmund allowed for party time to ensue at SW6 once more.
Having played well but fallen short in Germany, the Blues continued to tread a similar path in the first half, missing several crucial chances to level the game on aggregate, Raheem Sterling’s strike changed the atmosphere. The Stamford Bridge roar was back. Kai Havertz’s penalty drama eventually sealed progression in the most Chelsea way of all.
It had the makings of a special night from the start, really. Rarely do SW6 matchgoers greet their players – especially underperforming ones – with a reception like that of Tuesday night. The crowds down the Fulham Road actually delayed the visitors from arriving, resulting in a ten-minute kick-off setback, such was the atmsophere created by keen supporters.
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It became one of those nights in West London, the type that helps to change opinions and get things going. Graham Potter needed it. Having so-far failed to ignite his relationship with the Blues faithful, there is nothing like overcoming the odds to kickstart things.
The manager has been hammered for not doing more to get the fans onside, lacking in charisma and anger. His crowd punches at full-time told a different story, one of a man that had overcome a hurdle. Dare it be said, one of a man that believed.
Looking ahead there is even more reason to be positive. The last time Potter won two games in a row he went on and made it five from five. With Leicester City up next at the weekend there is a chance to make the most of the first true sense of upwards momentum on the field for months.
Chelsea now have a run of three home games in the next four coming up and a crowd eager to get behind their European heroes once more. There really is nothing like a continental quest to bring the club together. As well as seeing the joy of Chelsea’s under-fire squad celebrating a special night, it’s hard to escape the fact that this is far from their peak.
Potter played the final half an hour against Leeds like it could be his last, the victory against Dortmund surely means that he will now be given the rest of the season to make a point, it may just free him, and the team, up. Winning breeds confidence and it’s something that has been lacking immensely in recent weeks and months.
Potter’s ‘timelines’ and ‘deadlines’ for overturning the poor form all ended on Tuesday night. There was no reason to look further. Had the past four days gone badly then the job advert for the third Chelsea manager of the season may have been written. Potter can now ink in the next run of fixtures, safe in the knowledge that he’s got that far, at least.
The quarter-final ties are due to be played on April 11-12 with the second legs the week after. That gives Potter just over one month to prepare for another historic day.
Only Harry Redknapp and Craig Shakespeare have got to this stage of the tournament when it comes to English managers, as Potter makes that new step for himself it will be a moment to be proud of. From the ninth tier of the English game to the last eight in Europe’s premier club competition.
There is little reason to think that his side can’t get better too. This was, for example, the first time Wesley Fofana has won in the Champions League with Chelsea, the same goes for Enzo Fernandez and Joao Felix. It was a maiden effort for the back three playing together too.
With time until the next stage of the tournament there is one more, final reason to look up. Chelsea weren’t even at full strength here. N’Golo Kante wasn’t ready to make a comeback, Thiago Silva was out injured, Mason Mount missed it through suspension and Christian Pulisic made his first appearance since January 5.
It’s not unreasonable to think that Silva and Kante will be in with a shout, if not more, of featuring in the quarter-finals. They’re two of Chelsea’s best players and were central to the 2021 win. Welcoming them back, along with the chance of bringing fans on-board for the journey at last Potter can, finally, relax a touch.
The simple but fickle reality and note here for Potter is that when results turn and memories or performances like the one against Dortmund are out in the ether, criticism of his tactics, softly spoken nature, player involvement, media attitude and all the other things that have been used to label him incompetent will suddenly be deemed as points of praise.