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Evening Standard

Todd Boehly ends Chelsea jinx on day of farewells as new Stamford Bridge era begins

Todd Boehly ended his Chelsea duck after Ross Barkley’s injury-time winner.

The American, who is set to complete his buyout of the club, was on the pitch to embrace Thomas Tuchel after the 2-1 win against Watford and mark the start of a new era at Stamford Bridge.

This was the final game of Roman Abramovich’s ownership.

Boehly will be at the helm when the new season starts – so it was a good time to watch his new investment win for the first time since beginning his £4.25bn bid to take control.

The businessman had watched Chelsea lose to Real Madrid, Arsenal and Liverpool – as well as draw with Wolves and Leicester.

Tuchel even joked midweek that he would have to watch from back home in Los Angeles from now on.

And Boehly must have feared the worst when Dan Gosling struck in the 87th-minute to cancel out Kai Havertz’ first half opener.

A season that has been allowed to go into drift in the final stages, looked like ending in that fashion, with Chelsea failing to take advantage of their dominance before succumbing to a late sucker punch.

But substitute, Barkley, was a bright spark after coming on, and came up with the decisive moment – heading home Reece James’ cross in the 91st-minute.

That finally gave Boehly the win he has been searching for – and perhaps he will look to co-owner Hansjorg Wyss to come along more often, with the Swiss billionaire sat alongside him in the executive seats.

This may have been Barkley’s final act as a Chelsea player on a day of goodbyes.

Toni Rudiger was given a standing ovation after leaving the pitch, for Barkley, after 66 minutes.

Andreas Christensen did not even make the squad, along with Marcos Alonso, who could also walk away, with interest from Barcelona.

Cesar Azpilicueta faces an uncertain future ahead of talks with Tuchel about his plans.

(REUTERS)

And Kepa Arrizabalaga also had the look of a man who has played his final game for the club as he chatted with and embraced teammates at the end.

Meanwhile there were rare starts for Saul Niguez and Kenedy, who are set to depart.

But most significant is the end of the Abramovich era after nearly two decades of unprecedented success.

The sanctioning of the oligarch for his links to Vladimir Putin have contributed to Chelsea’s season ending in such unsatisfactory circumstances.

It has placed uncertainty over the future – as well as problems in the present, with the club operating under a strict Government licence just to continue operating for the remainder of the campaign.

It feels like an eternity has passed since Abramovich was celebrating on the pitch with Tuchel and his players in Abu Dhabi after completing the full set of trophies with the Club World Cup.

Few could have predicted that would be his final piece of silverware. Tuchel can point to that, as well as the European Super Cup and a third place finish as a qualified success.

Chelsea are still too far behind champions Manchester City and Liverpool. An important summer lies ahead, when Boehly will be challenged right from the get go.

A new era begins.