Wesley Fofana went from the joy of scoring his first Chelsea goal to the pain of being forced off with an injury as Graham Potter picked up his first-ever win in the Champions League, crucially taking the Blues into the top two in the Group E table in the process.
Chelsea vs AC Milan result
The match finished Chelsea 3-0 AC Milan, and in truth it was if anything an even more comfortable win for the Blues than the scoreline suggests.
After a couple of close calls, it was midway through the first half that the breakthrough arrived. Three times in quick succession Thiago Silva forced a save or a block when getting his head to a series of set-pieces, but on the third occasion Milan couldn't clear and Fofana was in the right place to put the ball in the net after a scramble around the penalty spot.
Mason Mount thought he had made it two soon afterwards with a lovely chip over the keeper, but it was disallowed for offside.
We pulled away to safety in the second half, though, as Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang outfoxed returning former Chelsea defender Fikayo Tomori at the near post to turn in Reece James' cross, and then James found the net himself by smashing into the roof of the net from close range after being played in by Raheem Sterling to put the result beyond any doubt.
Graham Potter made two changes to his side, with Jorginho and Kai Havertz missing out due to slight injury problems, but both were okay for a place on the bench.
Edouard Mendy also returned among the substitutes, as Kepa Arrizabalaga continued in goal. Kalidou Koulibaly came into the defence ahead of him to join Wesley Fofana and Thiago Silva in a back three, the Senegalese international making his first appearance for Potter.
Jorginho was replaced by Ruben Loftus-Cheek alongside Mateo Kovacic in midfield, with Reece James and Ben Chilwell in the wide positions. Mason Mount, Raheem Sterling and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang all kept their places in attack.
The game began at a high tempo, with both teams attempting to keep the ball moving at speed. In Chelsea’s case that was mostly while trying to shift the Milan players around to create space, especially as Aubameyang threatened to isolate Tomori one-on-one a couple of times.
For their part, the Italian visitors seemed intent to move the ball forward to their attacking players as quickly as possible
Mount provided the first meaningful effort on goal inside the first five minutes and it was a fine effort all around. Thiago Silva did brilliantly to chest down the Milan goalkeeper’s kick for Kovacic, who fed the ball forward to Auabameyang quickly. When he rolled it left to Mount there was only one thing in the Englishman’s mind, but his low curling shot from the edge of the box was tipped away by Ciprian Tatarusanu.
Joy and pain for Fofana
Thiago Silva, who had moments earlier produced a brilliant sliding challenge to snuff out a dangerous Milan counter at source, then proceeded to cause chaos at the other end on a series of Chelsea set-pieces.
Three times in a row the Brazilian got his head on the delivery in the penalty area, forcing Tatarusanu to tip over from a Mount free-kick and then seeing another effort ricochet behind off a defender from the resulting Chilwell corner. It proved to be third time the charm for the Blues, though, as when Tatarusanu saved Thiago Silva’s header from the next corner, it resulted in a goal-mouth scramble involving Aubameyang, Koulibaly and Loftus-Cheek, before Fofana pounced decisively and calmly to side-foot the ball through the gap and into the back of the net.
The opening goal only seemed to encourage Chelsea to push harder for a second, starting to maintain a larger share of possession and keeping the ball in the opposition half for prolonged spells, before Mount was left with his head in his hands when a powerful drive that seemed destined for goal, after we had won the ball high up the pitch, cannoned off Kalulu and away from danger.
Mount did have the ball in the net a minute later with a lovely chip over Tatarusanu from a tight angle, after Aubameyang lifted a first-time pass over the Milan defence and into his path, but the linesman’s flag shot up and replays showed that both Blues players had been caught offside. It was a clear sign of the threat Aubameyang had been posing as an outlet and target man though.
However, just as things were looking increasingly bright for the Blues, there was a set-back to contend with. It was the same man who had opened the scoring who now had a problem, as Fofana had been visibly struggling with a knee injury since being fouled by Rafael Leao. Despite his best efforts, the French defender was now unable to continue, forcing Potter to replace him with Trevoh Chalobah with just over five minutes to go before half-time.
Surviving a scare
Sterling might feel he could have done better to give Chelsea a two-goal lead at the break, when he hesitated with a chance to shoot after being played through by Mount, allowing Kalulu to recover with a last-ditch challenge.
However, it was Milan who ended up the most disappointed not to score on the brink of half-time. Leao did well to weave his way into the Chelsea box on the ball, but when he laid an inviting pass towards the penalty spot Charles De Ketelaere's initial effort was blocked and then Rade Krunic skied over the bar from close range as he tried to follow up on the rebound.
The second half began at a more subdued tempo than the first, despite Chalobah's attempt to liven things up with an acrobatic bicycle kick from the edge of the area, but he couldn't keep his ambitious effort down.
Clear and cruising
It seemed, now we were in the lead, Chelsea felt no need to rush anymore, taking our time with a more patient approach, and it was soon justified.
With 10 minutes of the second half played, Mount broke into space down the left with Milan caught short at the back. For a moment it looked like the chance might have gone when his left-footed cross was overhit, but James kept the ball in play and delivered a cross of his own, which Aubameyang met ahead of Tomori at the front post and turned into the net.
Before the visitors had time to regroup, the Blues had netted again to put the result beyond doubt, and it was the man who had set up our second who scored the third. Mount did brilliantly in the build-up, moving through the Milan ranks with some slick one and two-touch passing. When he was finally dispossessed on the edge of the box the ball rolled to Sterling, who showed composure and awareness as he waited for the run of James before feeding it right into his path.
There was no mistake about what came next, as James steadied himself before smashing a shot high into the roof of the net at the near post, a ferocious shot which was past the goalkeeper before he had time to react. Chelsea were three up and playing with a smile on our faces now.
That third goal certainly seemed to knock the fight out of Milan, who seemed increasingly happy just to keep the scoreline down at 3-0 and avoid any further damage or embarrassment.
In some ways that was fine by Chelsea, as the Blues players clearly knew the hard work had already been done, and proceeded to see out the game in a professional manner, ensuring we were rarely troubled and allowing Potter to make a series of substitutions as he continued to evaluate his squad in just his third game as head coach.
The relative ease with which it was accomplished in the latter stages should take nothing away from the performance or the achievement of this Chelsea team on a high-pressure Champions League night with high stakes.
Knowing nothing less than a win would do against what on paper should have been our toughest opponents of the group stage, the Blues produced a match of great quality and composure to make short work of AC Milan and kick-start our European campaign.
Chelsea (3-4-2-1): Kepa; Fofana (Chalobah 38), Thiago Silva (c), Koulibaly; James, Loftus-Cheek, Kovacic (Jorginho 66), Chilwell; Mount (Havertz 74), Sterling (Broja 74); Aubameyang (Gallagher 66)
Unused subs: Bettinelli, Mendy, Azpilicueta, Cucurella, Zakaria, Pulisic, Ziyech
Scorers: Fofana 24, Aubameyang 56, James 62
Booked: Kovacic 39, Thiago Silva 71
AC Milan (4-2-3-1): Tatarusanu; Dest, Kalulu, Tomori, Ballo-Toure; Bennacer (c) (Pobega 73), Tonali; Krunic (Gabbia 65), De Ketelaere (Rebic 65), Leao (Diaz 73); Giroud (Origi 73)
Unused subs: Mirante, Jungdal, Coubis, Gala
Booked: Krunic 8, Ballo-Toure 15, Tomori 42
Referee: Danny Makkelie
Chelsea vs AC Milan stats
Chelsea vs AC Milan - Champions League Group E table
See the standings after today's game
What time are the Chelsea vs AC Milan highlights available?
Match highlights from this game will be available from midnight UK time on matchday on chelseafc.com and The 5th Stand app. Extended highlights and the full match can be watched from midnight on Friday.
Chelsea fixtures - what's next?
The Blues stay at Stamford Bridge but are back in Premier League action at the weekend, when we host Wolverhampton Wanderers.
Next fixture: Chelsea vs Wolverhampton Wanderers
Date: Saturday 8 October 2022
Kick-off time: 3pm UK time
Location: Stamford Bridge