What Kalidou Koulibaly did to Rio Ferdinand as Chelsea star seeks £34m redemption


The scenes at Stamford Bridge were jubilant at full-time of Chelsea's dramatic and historic Champions League victory against Borussia Dortmund. Chelsea had got over the line. Just. But just was enough and it was finally lift-off for Graham Potter. That’s what it felt like, anyway. While some supporters will disagree, Tuesday felt like a potentially defining night in Potter’s short Chelsea tenure thus far.

The under-fire Blues head coach was a version of himself we haven’t seen yet – passionate, energetic and ready to fight anyone or anything that would get in the way of his Chelsea side progressing into the quarter-finals of the Champions League. It was refreshing to see and it was clear the Stamford Bridge faithful appreciated the change they saw in Potter.

It was indeed an emotional evening in west London, and not only for Potter. There were a couple of Chelsea players who started against Dortmund – Marc Cucurella and Kalidou Koulibaly, namely – who, like Potter, had come in for some fierce criticism recently and deservedly so. Their performances since they both signed for Chelsea last summer, overall, have not been good enough.

However, both came into the side on Tuesday and produced really confident and assured performances when Chelsea needed them most. Dortmund were by no means their best and potent selves when attacking, but with the offensive options that were on display, the Blues’ defence had to be on-point. And that they were.

Koulibaly, who signed for around £34million from Napoli last summer , has not lived up to the hype thus far at the Bridge. Too many defensive mistakes, positional errors and on-the- ball mishaps have seen him in and out of the team under Potter. With Benoit Badiashile not included in the Champions League squad, though, it was a back-three of Wesley Fofana (right- hand side), Koulibaly (in the middle) and Cucurella (on the left).

Chelsea supporters were skeptical going into the game when seeing that defensive trio, and understandably so, but it delivered a really confident display. Koulibaly was superb. The Senegalese defender won all three of his ground duels, all three of his tackles, won four aerial duels and made six clearances on the night. Cucurella won Man of the Match, but Koulibaly surely wasn’t that far behind his teammate.

It felt like a real night of redemption for many at Stamford Bridge and Koulibaly was certainly one of them. It’s now up to the former Napoli centre-back to kick on and keep doing the basics right to ensure he remains in the back-three for the upcoming fixtures. Koulibaly was absolutely delighted when the full-time whistle was blown. It was difficult to keep an eye on all of the celebrations on the pitch but what Koulibaly did stood out from the press box.

The Senegal international ran to the BT Sport pundits on the side of the pitch and hugged former Chelsea winger Joe Cole and ex-England defender Rio Ferdinand. They both looked absolutely thrilled for him. It felt like a turning point for Chelsea and for Koulibaly.

Potter also gave Koulibaly a big – and well deserved – hug at full-time. Chelsea supporters aren’t stupid. They could see how well Koulibaly performed on the night and they gave him, like the rest of the team on the night, a big ovation when they made their way around the stadium applauding the fans. Brilliant defensive performance from Koulibaly. Not so good going forward – see the miss from about three yards – but let’s not talk about that, eh?

Post a Comment