After a lackluster display against Manchester United at the weekend, Chelsea stepped things up during their European away night in Austria.
The Blues came up against RB Salzburg, who were unbeaten at home for 44 games, with the opportunity to secure qualification into the round of 16.
The visitor’s starting 11 featured several changes, as Christian Pulisic and Kai Havertz both entered the fray.
Alongside them was Mateo Kovacic, who changed the game for Chelsea after coming on against United at the weekend.
The Croatian is arguably Chelsea’s best midfielder, and were it not for injuries, he’d likely be one of the first names on the team sheet.
Nevertheless, the 28-year-old reminded everybody of his qualities against Salzburg through a spotless performance.
Skipping past midfielders at will, stitching attacks together, and offering precise passes, Kovacic did it all.
He even managed to break the deadlock through an absolute blinder.
After taking several deflections, the ball arrived in the Croatian’s path. Off-balance and wrong-footed, he flung his foot at the half-volley, and the ball went flying into the roof of the net.
The midfielder is far from prolific as a goalscorer, but when he scores, it’s usually a banger. Be it the perfectly placed strike at Everton a few seasons ago, or the floated volley against Liverpool last year, Kovacic makes the wait worthwhile.
The former Real Madrid player clearly backed himself to take on the striker, but as it turns out, not everyone was as confident.
This was revealed by the game’s MOTM Jorginho, who had an incredible reaction to his midfield partner’s stunner.
After the game, he spoke about why he was so surprised with Kova’s goal, and it honestly makes sense.
The Italian said, “It’s funny because I keep joking with him ‘don’t shoot’ because sometimes he shoots up there in the stands, like no just pass the ball! When he scored, I was like ‘woah, haha’.”
The Croatian may have a tendency to score bangers, but at the end of the day, they’re far and few between, with most strikes being wavered.
Nevertheless, he made no mistake against Salzburg, leaving his pivot partner shocked and helping Chelsea on their way to qualification in the process.