Denis Zakaria scored the winner on his Chelsea debut as the Blues recorded a fourth straight Champions League win with a 2-1 victory over Dinamo Zagreb at Stamford Bridge.
Zakaria has struggled to break into the first team since joining on loan from Juventus in the last transfer window but his 30th-minute strike proved decisive after Raheem Sterling had cancelled out Bruno Petkovic’s opener.
The Blues had already secured progression to the knockout stages as Group E winners prior to Wednesday’s clash, in which Ben Chilwell offered Chelsea and England reason for concern after sustaining a hamstring injury late on.
Dinamo could not muster a comeback, though, and were eliminated from Europe after finishing bottom, while Chelsea responded in encouraging fashion after a 4-1 loss to Brighton and Hove Albion on Saturday.
Petkovic headed Dinamo into a seventh-minute lead after Chelsea failed to deal with Sadegh Moharrami’s right-wing cross but the Blues soon levelled.
Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang flicked for Sterling to dance onto his left foot and coolly find the bottom-left corner.
Sterling missed a great chance when he powered Kai Havertz’s centre over from close range, but Zakaria fired into the bottom-left corner from a similar distance after another cutback pass from the German to put Chelsea ahead.
Edouard Mendy pushed away Josip Sutalo’s header after the interval, while Livakovic parried over an Aubameyang curler before Chilwell blasted just off target from a tight angle.
Mason Mount’s whipped free-kick was denied by another fine Livakovic stop in the closing stages, though victory was somewhat marred by Chilwell’s injury as he was helped off by physios at the end of the game.
What does it mean? Good omens for Potter in Champions League
Potter has taken well to life in European football and became the first Chelsea manager to go unbeaten in his first five Champions League games since Roberto Di Matteo in the 2011-12 season.
Di Matteo guided the Blues to European glory that campaign and Potter will be hoping to replicate the feat after Chelsea extended to 11 home games unbeaten in the competition’s group stage, last losing to Valencia in September 2019.
While Chelsea have made an underwhelming start in the Premier League, where they sit sixth, they will at least have some confidence in Europe ahead of Monday’s last-16 draw.
Sterling has faced scrutiny for a diminishing role in the Chelsea side in recent weeks, with some questioning whether the forward should be in England’s starting line-up at the World Cup.
Yet, while the 27-year-old missed a gilt-edged first-half chance, only Wayne Rooney (30) has more Champions League goals among English players than Sterling (20) after his equaliser.
Away day misery for Dinamo
While Dinamo may not have expected to become just the second side – after Basel in the 2013-14 season – to beat Chelsea home and away in the Champions League group stage, their performance left much to be desired.
Despite Petkovic’s opener, Ante Cacic’s visitors offered little to trouble Mendy as Dinamo made it 21 away games in the competition without victory (L18 D3), dating back to a 1-0 win over Ajax in November 1998.
Chelsea host Arsenal in the Premier League in Sunday’s crunch London derby, while Dinamo are at home to Sibenik on the same day.