For 43 minutes at Stamford Bridge you might genuinely have convinced yourself that Chelsea were doomed never to score again. Maybe a shadowy multinational conglomerate was pulling the strings, perhaps ghosts were pushing the crossbar an inch lower or it could just have been the familiar tale a group of men that had failed to sufficiently honor the gods and were destined to pay the price for eternity.
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How else to explain not just the misses and misfortunes that pockmarked the early exchanges in west London but everything else that had pushed Graham Potter to the precipice: Raheem Sterling's baffling double miss against Southampton, Joao Felix's stunning debut ending in a baffling red card, Reece James being unable to stay fit for more than a few games at a time. If the Chelsea head coach had convinced himself that his fortune could not get any worse in the biggest game of his tenure he was swiftly disabused of that notion.
From an offside position, Sterling prodded and poked at the ball when all he needed to do was take a touch to get away from Alexander Meyer and rifle the ball into the net. Kalidou Koulibaly rose highest to meet a tempting delivery but from within the margin of the goal posts contrived to flick a header well wide of goal.
The presence of both James and Ben Chilwell at wing back stretched a disorganised Borussia Dortmund backline far beyond its breaking point and when the former crashed a cross at the near post, the clearance sat up invitingly for Kai Havertz. He scuffed the shot but that might have been what was necessary to beat Alexander Meyer at his near post. That he did, and as the ball rebounded off the post it seemed inevitable that it would crawl across the goal line. Instead it did quite the opposite.
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If that wouldn't work, Havertz would simply have to leather the ball, and he did. He launched a thunderous strike off a Sterling saved shot, a moment to rank among the greatest the Champions League winner has delivered in a blue shirt, but then, seemingly inevitably, there was the raised flag of the linesman. There are plenty of profound questions to ask about Havertz -- not least what his best position is and whether he is quite good enough to merit Potter building his whole system around -- but would any answer to those convince you that there is not something missing there?
In Havertz's defense, he keeps finding himself in positions to fluff his lines. So have so many of his team mates in the post World Cup dry spell, more and more by the game. That might not feel like sufficient progress for a club that hast just spent £600 million on new players, and no one should confuse this particular iteration of Chelsea with what their supporters have come to expect: a serious contender for domestic and European honors.
The opportunities had been coming. Shots worth 13.6 expected goals (xG) in their 10 league and European games before today converted into four goals. They had matched or bettered their opponents' xG in all bar one of those games. And ultimately, if you keep putting yourself in position for a shot inside the penalty area, there is only so often everything can go wrong. And thus the run ended. Sterling seemingly tried to mess it up. He really did. First he swung at fresh air, airballing on a volley and then after settling the ball he ran into Marco Reus before the ball finally ricocheted, sat up for him and he rifled it into the roof of the net.
And that was it. Suddenly everything was coming up Potter. Speaking to CBS Sports after the match, Potter said, "We've all been suffering a little bit ... that's an understatement, a lot. So it was nice to win ... really nice." Setbacks that might have sent Chelsea into a funk were being scrubbed from the record, Havertz's penalty that slapped into the post brought back for encroachment by Marius Wolf. The repeat kick was dispatched with greater authority. Sterling was flying into the space behind the Dortmund backline while substitute Conor Gallagher brought a burst of energy. Christian Pulisic even had his blushes spared when he rolled the ball wide when he only had Meyer to beat from six yards out.
At the other end Jude Bellingham contrived to hook wide from close range and lifted a late header over the crossbar, Jamie Bynoe-Gittens ran the ball straight out of touch, Giovanni Reyna seemed to develop an eye for crosses that flew straight into the first man.
Chelsea were only a somewhat better team today than they had been in those impressive first halves in the Westfalenstadion or the London Stadium. There are still major questions over a frontline that seems well stocked with supporting pieces, completely shorn of a keystone around whom to build. If Potter wants to engender the support of a vitriolic fanbase this performance will need to be the baseline rather than a high water mark.
There have, however, been more than enough games of late where Chelsea's best moments have gone unrewarded. No one could really complain that fortune finally broke their way tonight.