Chelsea Overcome Manchester City to Clinch Second Champions League

If these are the results, perhaps Chelsea should fire a coach every season. The Blues conquered the second Champions League of their history as they beat Manchester City 1-0 in the rescheduled Final at the Estadio do Dragao in Porto.

They did it, once again, after changing their coach in the middle of the season, with Thomas Tuchel replacing Frank Lampard. The German manager followed the steps of Roberto Di Matteo, who led Chelsea to their first European triumph in 2012 after taking the reins from Andrés Villas-Boas.

Tuchel had been just fired by Paris Saint-Germain, a club desperately obsessed with chasing their first Champions League win. Sometimes, karma also works in football.

There is another similarity with Chelsea’s win from 2012. Even this time, the Blues clinched the European throne as an absolute underdog. Raise your hands, those of you who thought Roman Abramovich’s club was in a position to battle for the title, let alone make it to the Final, when the season started.

Even tonight, they were the clear outsider versus the Manchester powerhouse who had just collected the Premier League title. But Pep Guadiola’s squad once again proved to be an incomplete masterpiece. The Citizens played a game well below their standard. The Champions League remains a chimera, just like for PSG or Juventus. It seems that some clubs are just not meant to win it.

Witnessed by 16,500 fans (finally!), the Final at the Estadio do Dragao was a highly-entertaining Premier League affair: The match was fast, dynamic, and with continuous fast breaks. Compared to the 2019 Liverpool-Tottenham boredom, this time the all-English Final lived up to the expectations.

Pep Guardiola, the master of the Tiki Taka, risked drawing first blood with a long ball from his goalkeeper Ederson directly to Raheem Sterling. However, the English national was somehow blocked by Edouard Mendy. That was the only shooting attempt for the Citizens in the first half as their best chance – a Kevin De Bruyne service for Phil Foden – was brilliantly defused by former Roma man Antonio Rudiger. 

As expected, Chelsea let Manchester play and tried to punish them on the counter, led by a monumental N’golo Kanté who was literally everywhere. Among Tuchel’s lines, Timo Werner was unstoppable but should have had a better aim. The number 11 missed three chances to trouble the scorers from close range. First, he sliced the ball from a pass from his fellow countryman Kai Havertz. His second shot was weak and easily saved by Ederson, while the third was deflected by John Stones into the side netting.

All in all, Chelsea were the better side but received a hard blow on 38 minutes as their stalwart Thiago Silva picked up an injury and had to abandon the game. Tuchel sent in Andreas Christensen in his place. It could have been the beginning of the end for the Blues. Conversely, it was just the prelude to their goal, which came on the counter only three minutes later.

With three touches, Chelsea were ready to fire, though most of the credit must go to Mason Mount for inventing a phenomenal filtering pass for Kai Havertz. All the German had to do was catch the ball and anticipate Ederson’s desperate exit by a split second to deposit it into the untended goal. He surely chose the right time to score his first Champions League goal ever. 

Fifteen minutes into the second half, Pep Guardiola was forced to make his first change and it was an overly painful one. Manchester’s best man De Bruyne crashed into Rudiger and collapsed to the ground. The Chelsea defender picked up a yellow card, the Belgian had worse than that as he looked stunned and was not able to continue. It was Gabriel Jesus to take his place.

Guardiola soon followed up with Fernandinho in place of Bernardo Silva, while Tuchel’s next move was sending in Semi-Finals hero Christian Pulisic for Timo Werner. The U.S. international soon had a chance to make it two for the Blues but his shot from an Havertz pass was too angled. He should have done better.

On 68 minutes, Manchester finally showed themselves around Mendy’s area, and it took a textbook slide clearance from César Azpilicueta to prevent Ilkay Gundogan from tapping the ball in from point-blank range.   

With 15 minutes to go, Guardiola played the Sergio Aguero card, replacing an inconsistent Sterling. It was the last match for El Kun with the Citizens’ jersey. Tuchel replied with Mateo Kovacic for Mason Mount. He then turned to the stands and resorted to the ancient tactic of calling his supporters to push his boys for the final resistance. Since we have them after such a long time, let’s use them, he must have thought. 

It was a plan that worked as Chelsea were able to pull off the upset of the season without suffering any particular threat for the remaining part of the game. Manchester’s assault was disorganized and did not lead anywhere. It was Chelsea to lift the cup, and they did it with full merit.



May 29, 2021 – Champions League 2020-21 Final

SCORERS: 42′ Havertz

MANCHESTER CITY (4-3-3): Ederson; Walker, Stones, Ruben Dias, Zinchenko; Gündogan, Bernardo Silva (63′ Fernandinho), De Bruyne (59′ Gabriel Jesus); Mahrez, Sterling (76′ Aguero), Foden (Steffen, Carson, Aké, Laporte, Rodrigo, Ferran Torres, B. Mendy, Cancelo, Garcia) Coach: Guardiola
CHELSEA (4-3-3): E. Mendy; Azpilicueta, Thiago Silva (38′ Christensen), Rüdiger, James; Chilwell, Kanté, Jorginho; Mount (78′ Kovacic), Havertz, Werner (65′ Pulisic) (Caballero, Kepa, Alonso, Emerson, Zouma, Gilmour, Hudson-Odoi, Ziyech, Giroud) Coach: Tuchel

REFEREE: Mateu Lahoz (Spain)
NOTES: Yellow Cards: Gundogan (M), Rudiger (C); Extra Time: First Half 2′, Second Half 7′