Sport

Chilwell to miss World Cup with hamstring injury after Zakaria scores

Graham Potter has admitted Ben Chilwell’s hopes of being fit for the World Cup appear bleak after the England defender pulled up with an injury which marred Chelsea’s victory against Dinamo Zagreb.

Chilwell appeared to pull his hamstring during injury time at Stamford Bridge and with England’s first match against Iran on 21 November it looks highly unlikely the defender will recover in time to be considered for Gareth Southgate’s squad.

It is the latest blow for Chilwell after he injured his anterior cruciate ligament last November which had kept him out until May.

When asked how serious the injury looks, Potter said: “Not great. Obviously, when he pulls up like that it’s a concern. Obviously, we need to scan it but it’s not positive at the moment.

“It’s a blow for us on an otherwise positive evening.

To see him pull up like that, it’s not a great sight. So fingers crossed when we get it scanned it isn’t too bad. It can be not as severe but we have to cross our fingers at the moment. But clearly, we’re disappointed.

“I spoke to him briefly. He just felt something as he was setting off. He is disappointed and upset.”

Chelsea overcame a troubled start in the Champions League, which began with a defeat in Zagreb, to safely top their group – after back‑to‑back wins against Milan – and this win, albeit with little in the way of jeopardy, was the required response after the drubbing at Brighton on Saturday.

Potter may have feared the worst, though, after Bruno Petkovic’s early header raised the possibility of an unlikely double for Zagreb. Chelsea gathered themselves and responded, with Raheem Sterling scoring a timely equaliser after a goal drought stretching back to the middle of September. Denis Zakaria crowned his debut for Chelsea by scoring the first-half winner. The hosts had further chances to increase the lead but were largely untroubled, after the inauspicious start, in closing the group stage with a fourth victory.

Zagreb’s passionate followers were certainly making themselves heard, with a raucous noise from behind the goal despite their team propping up the group. The Zagreb fans could not have envisioned a better start at Stamford Bridge, with their team stunning Chelsea after just seven minutes.

Sadegh Moharrami floated in a deep cross and César Azpilicueta could only inadvertently nudge the ball back into danger, off the top of his head, with Petkovic pouncing to plant a header past Édouard Mendy.

Chelsea responded quickly with a silky equaliser. Jorginho offloaded to Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and the striker backheeled the ball into Sterling’s path for a low shot into the corner of the net. It was a much‑needed finish from the England forward after scoring his first goal since Potter’s opening game in charge against RB Salzburg in September.

Kalidou Koulibaly spurned an opportunity, with the towering defender heading over the bar from a Chelsea corner. The hosts went close again from Havertz’s cross but Sterling could only send his half‑volley harmlessly over.

But Chelsea’s next attack paid off with Mason Mount cutting the ball back and Zakaria’s low strike crept into the net, despite the desperate attempt to block the effort on the line by Moharrami. Zakaria’s patience paid off after his long wait to play for Chelsea following his loan move from Juventus.

Mendy was called into action at the start of the second half with the goalkeeper forced to parry Josip Sutalo’s downward header. At the other end, Aubameyang was desperately unlucky after cutting inside and curling a long-range strike against the upright.

Chelsea were threatening to open up their tiring opponents and Aubameyang released Chilwell but the left-back’s powerful strike hit the side netting. Mount almost extended Chelsea’s lead from a free-kick on the left edge of the area but Dominik Livakovic reacted sharply to tip the ball around the post.

Thiago Silva came off the bench and the defender missed a glaring chance late on when he sidefooted wide from a free-kick. Chelsea were denied a third goal in injury time after Conor Gallagher’s close-range effort was parried by Livakovic.

The rain hammered down in the closing stages but it could not dampen the spirit of the raucous travelling fans as they bellowed out songs despite their team’s exit from Europe. For Chelsea, much tougher challenges lie ahead with the draw on Monday likely to provide a stronger examination for Potter’s team.