LONDON (AP) — Chelsea’s prospective new ownership watched Romelu Lukaku score his first English Premier League goals in 2022 before the team collapsed to 2-2 against Wolverhampton on Saturday, leaving work still to do to wrap up Champions League qualification.
Lukaku netted twice in a two-minute span early in the second half in a rare start in the league for the Belgium striker. Lukaku has struggled in the first season of his second spell at Chelsea after being the club’s headline summer signing at a record fee of $135 million.
Among those inside Stamford Bridge to see his first league goal since Dec. 29 was Todd Boehly, the part-owner of the Los Angeles Dodgers who is fronting a consortium that has agreed on buyout terms for the 2.5 billion-pound ($3.1 billion) purchase of Chelsea — the most lucrative ever for a sports team worldwide. The deal was announced hours before kickoff, meaning there was the feel of something of a new era inside the ground.
Chelsea still has to finish off a season that should end with the club back in the Champions League, but that is not certain.
Goals by Francisco Trincao, in the 79th, and Conor Coady, a header in the seventh minute of stoppage time from virtually the last touch of the game, left Thomas Tuchel’s third-placed team four points of fourth-placed Arsenal, which meets Leeds on Sunday.
Tottenham is two points further back in fifth.
Chelsea has three league games left, along with the FA Cup final against Liverpool.
The Premier League must still approve the consortium as the new ownership and the British government has to sign off under the terms of the license that allows Chelsea to continue operating as a business through May 31 while being one of the frozen assets of Roman Abramovich, the Russian oligarch who was forced to offload the club because of the war in Ukraine.
And where it was once Abramovich -- the owner for 19 years -- celebrating Chelsea’s goals, now it was Boehly standing up to applaud Lukaku.
He has five goals since his last league goal -- all in various cup competitions -- but has mostly had to settle for a place on the bench in recent weeks, behind Kai Havertz.
With Jorginho injured, Lukaku ended up on penalty duties and rolled his into the corner in the 55th after he was tripped by Romain Saiss in a seemingly innocuous clash near the byline and just inside the area.
His second goal was more impressive after being fed by Christian Pulisic following a poor pass out from the back by Conor Coady.
Lukaku picked his spot from just outside the area and curled a right-footed shot inside the post.
Chelsea controlled the match in the first half but was disallowed goals by Timo Werner and Ruben Loftus-Cheek.
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The Associated Press