Pulisic returns to Chelsea XI and plays big role in reaching UCL round of 16

Chelsea travelled to Red Bull Arena and beat Salzburg 2-1 Tuesday night to clinch passage to the Champions League Round of 16 for the fourth straight year.

Christian Pulisic, making his first start since scoring against Wolves on Oct. 8, played a role in both goals, although they were spectacularly finished by Mateo Kovačić and Kai Havertz.   

Chelsea's formation was a 3-4-1-2 with Pulisic deployed out on the right of midfield. With Havertz roaming around the frontline ahead of him, Pulisic pushed largely into the right wing. 

He got on the ball in the opening 45 — his 41 touches trailed only Conor Gallagher's 44 in attack — but Salzburg left-back and Austrian international Maximilian Wöber kept his dribbles contained.

But the American international did play a part in Chelsea's 23rd-minute opener with a challenge that prompted some chaos in Salzburg's area. Havertz took possession but had the ball poked off him to Kovačić, and the Croatian lashed a left-footed effort into the top corner.

The Blues should've scored a second before halftime, but Salzburg keeper Philipp Köhn pulled off two huge saves on Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang to allow the home side a dramatic equalizer in the 48th.

A quick Salzburg break saw Wöber streaking wide with Pulisic in hot pursuit, but Wöber struck a first-time cross with calibrated precision to eliminate Trevoh Chalobah and Marc Cucurella before arriving at the feet of Junior Adamu for the finish.

Five minutes later, it was Adamu at the other end who kept it at 1-1 by clearing a Jorginho header off the line. Pulisic then looked to be racing clear through off Aubameyang's feed, but defenders recovered on the bouncing ball and cleared their lines.

But Pulisic's influence continued in the 64th when the American twisted and turned in possession before feeding Havertz. Like Kovačić before him, the German wasted little time in spanking an unstoppable long-range effort.

Pulisic's final contribution was whiffing on a Havertz cutback in the 74th minute and falling to the ground. Moments later, Graham Potter withdrew Pulisic for César Azpilicueta to protect the three points over the final 15 minutes.

Kepa kept things interesting with his maverick style of goalkeeping, but ultimately Salzburg's streak of scoring exactly one goal every UCL match reached eight games. 

Pulisic heat map vs. Salzburg

Pulisic heat map

Pulisic had to put in the defensive work at Salzburg, but Potter also clearly wanted him to get forward.

Chelsea returns to action Saturday in the PL, which marks the start of a period with five matches in 15 days for the team before the start of the World Cup. You can start to pray for Pulisic's hamstrings now.

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