The former Brighton & Hove Albion boss, however, failed to mark the occasion with a victory, with the visitors holding Chelsea to a 1-1 draw in west London. Raheem Sterling found the back of the net for the Blues while Noah Okafor scored for the Austrian outfit.
The Pensioners, who fell to a 1-0 defeat to Dinamo Zagreb in their previous Champions League outing, find themselves in fourth place in the Group E standings. Milan, who beat Zagreb 3-1 on Wednesday, are the current group toppers with four points.
Chelsea enjoyed a bright start to the game in west London, creating their first real opening after 11 minutes of play. Kai Havertz got on the end of an inviting Marc Cucurella free kick, but his effort took a deflection before it could trouble Salzburg keeper Philipp Kohn.
Their next real opportunity did not arrive until the 40th minute. This time, Mason Mount found himself in a promising situation at the edge of the box. He went for goal with a curling effort, but saw it drift just wide of the mark. A minute later, Benjamin Sesko went for Chelsea’s goal, but Kepa Arrizabalaga was on hand to deny the Salzburg forward.
Three minutes into the second half, Sterling applied a gorgeous finish to Mount’s deflected delivery, giving the hosts the lead. Aubameyang and Havertz had a couple of half-decent chances to add to Potter’s side’s lead, but their finishing let them down.
Salzburg got themselves a goal out of the blue in the 75th minute. Chukwubuike Adamu found Okafor in space with a pass inside the box, and the latter made no mistake slotting it home.
Substitute Hakim Ziyech came close to restoring Chelsea’s lead in the 83rd minute, but Kohn refused to be beaten by the Moroccan’s close-range flick. Fellow substitute Armando Broja dispatched a thunderous right-footed volley in injury time, but it narrowly flew over the crossbar. The last chance of the match fell to Ziyech. Once again, Kohn expertly read the situation and made himself big to deny the forward.
Barring a couple, most of the Blues’ stars failed to live up to their billing in Potter’s first match in charge. Here are two players who performed and three who disappointed in the Blues’ 1-1 stalemate with Salzburg on Wednesday:
Underperformed: Mateo Kovacic
Croatia international Mateo Kovacic had a night to forget against Salzburg. He did make some nice tackles (3 of 3 completed), but that was pretty much the highlight of his match. Kovacic failed to create chances, lost the ball rather frequently, and was weak in one-on-one duels as well.
On Wednesday night, Kovacic lost six of 11 duels, ceded possession 16 times, committed a foul, and had only one shot, which flew off target.
Performed: Marc Cucurella
Playing once again under former Brighton & Hove Albion boss Graham Potter, Marc Cucurella put in a commendable shift. He primarily played on the left side of the Blues’ back three but did not hesitate to push further up the pitch when needed. Cucurella was a rock at the back, created openings for players in front, and ran tirelessly until the last blast of the whistle.
Against Salzburg, the Spaniard made two key passes, accurately delivered two long balls, and completed a dribble. He also made a couple of interceptions, won nine of 11 ground duels, and attempted a whopping six tackles, winning four.
Underperformed: Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang
Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang made his home debut for Chelsea against Salzburg on Wednesday night. The Gabonese ace tried his best to mark the occasion with a noteworthy performance, but it ultimately did not turn out that way. Aubameyang was often slow to react, rarely got involved in the build-up play, and was easily dealt with by opposition defenders.
At Stamford Bridge, Aubameyang lodged zero shots on target on Wednesday night. He also made only nine accurate passes (64.3% accuracy), misplaced a cross, and ceded possession eight times.
He was credited with the assist for Sterling’s goal, but it was hardly intentional. It was Mount’s delivery (took a deflection off Aubameyang) that led to the Englishman’s goal.
Performed: Raheem Sterling
Raheem Sterling marked the inauguration of the Graham Potter era with an excellent display. The former Manchester City man operated in the hole, for the most part, expertly bringing his teammates into play.
Sterling’s finest moment of the match came in the 48th minute when he curled the ball past Kohn to put his side in the lead. In addition to scoring a fine goal, Sterling made a key pass, delivered an accurate long ball, drew a foul, and attempted two tackles.
Underperformed: Kai Havertz
Chelsea ace Kai Havertz was considerably below his best on Wednesday night. He could not create openings for his teammates, was often outmuscled, and gave the ball away cheaply at times. The German lacked the confidence to take his opponents on, something Potter might have to address sooner rather than later.
On Wednesday, Havertz neither made a key pass nor lodged a shot on target. He also lost seven of eight duels, ceded possession 16 times, and committed a foul before being taken off for Ruben Loftus-Cheek in the 66th minute.