Denis Zakaria scored the win on his Chelsea debut when Graham Potter’s side finished first in Champions League Group E with a 2-1 win over Dinamo Zagreb at Stamford Bridge.
The 1-0 defeat in Zagreb on 6 September resulted in the sacking of former Blues coach Thomas Tuchel, but Potter saw his side return to winning ways after a weekend defeat to his former club Brighton.
Despite falling behind on Bruno Petkovic’s opening goal, Raheem Sterling equalized before loaner Juventus midfielder Zakaria – who had to wait for a chance to impress – struck.
Zagreb came into play by demanding a win and a defeat from RB Salzburg to reach the Europa League, but was unable to achieve the required result in London.
There was a troubling moment for Chelsea in their recovery time when England international Ben Chilwell was forced to retire after falling while holding his left hamstring.
Only seven minutes had elapsed when Zagreb boosted his hopes of finishing third as Petkovic took the visitors ahead with a header from close range.
Ten minutes later Sterling equalized with his first Chelsea goal since 14 September.
The 27-year-old picked up the ball from the edge of the box on a Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang kick, twisted the space to shoot and then punched low in the back of the net.
The hosts had a chance to take the lead in the 26th minute, when Kalidou Koulibaly tried to direct the ball towards the goal with a header from a corner, but was over the crossbar.
Sterling also had a chance to increase his and Chelsea’s tally just before the half hour after he was knocked out by Kai Havertz, but his first shot went through the door.
However, Chelsea were soon rewarded for their opportunities when Zakaria sent a low shot behind goalkeeper Dominik Livakovic. Defender Sadegh Moharrami was on the post and managed to slip a boot on the ball, but failed to stop him from crossing the finish line.
At the start of the second half Zagreb nearly equalized, but Edouard Mendy equaled Josip Sutalo’s header.
Play continued end-to-end with Aubameyang seeing a long-distance drive bounce off the crossbar.
Mason Mount came close to Chelsea’s lead with a free-kick that forced Livakovic to save, and Conor Gallagher saved a shot in the 85th minute.
Chelsea had another chance to crown their win in injury time, but Livakovic equaled Gallagher’s tap-in attempt less than five yards.