Chelsea took a big step towards the Champions League last 16 on Tuesday with a 2-0 win at AC Milan which took them top of Group E.
Graham Potter’s side took control at a packed San Siro against a Milan team who had to play most of the match with 10 men after Fikayo Tomori was controversially handed an early straight red card.
The clash was turned on its head in the 18th minute when former Blues man Tomori was sent off for pulling back Mason Mount in the area.
Italy midfielder Jorginho slotted home the resulting penalty and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang’s cool finish 11 minutes before the break ended Milan’s resistance and put Chelsea one point ahead of Salzburg at the head of the group.
Two straight defeats to Chelsea leave Milan third but they still have more than a fighting chance of making the knockout stages for the first time since the 2013-14 season.
Stefano Pioli’s side are ony two points away from the qualification places and a trip to Dinamo Zagreb and the visit of Salzburg will decide their fate in the competition.
An already scrappy, bad-tempered affair exploded when referee Daniel Siebert dismissed Tomori and gave a penalty to Chelsea after the England defender pulled back Mount who had been brilliantly put through by Reece James.
Tomori could barely believe his eyes when he was sent off and both Mount and Olivier Giroud were booked in the shoving that followed amid deafening jeers from the home supporters.
Jorginho opening the scoring three minutes later further irritated Italy fans after his spot-kick misses cost their national team qualification for the upcoming World Cup.
Olivier Giroud nearly levelled against his old club with a header that whistled just past the post in the 27th minute, but Aubameyang soon made sure Chelsea had an iron grip on the match.
Mount was again involved as he played through both Aubameyang and Raheem Sterling, but it was the Gabon striker who got there first and calmly finished at Ciprian Tatarusanu’s near post.
The Blues’ second, Aubameyang’s third in as many matches, completely took the wind out of Milan’s sales but to their credit they did try to force the issue in the second half.
Sergino Dest could have pulled one back for the hosts on the hour mark but he slashed an awful effort into the stands when Rafael Leao shot down the left flank and sent over an inviting cross with which the American should have done better.
From there Chelsea were content to keep the ball and take the sting out of a match which had long since been decided.