Kai Havertz’s goal in the first half proved to be the difference for Chelsea as they beat Manchester City in the all-English Champions League final at the Estadio do Dragao in Porto, Portugal.
The German international, Chelsea’s record signing, kept his composure as he raced on to Mason Mount’s through ball and evaded goalkeeper Ederson before rolling the ball into an empty net in the 42nd minute to decide an encounter that had a lot of thrills and spills.
The result in Portugal means Manchester City will have to wait for their first Champions League trophy for at least one more year. Despite winning three of the last four Premier League titles for Manchester City, Pep Guardiola failed to deliver the desirable European trophy he has twice won with Barcelona.
After leaving Barcelona, Pep Guardiola’s habit of tactical tinkering in bigger games has been his downfall in the elite European competition. And the Spaniard certainly didn’t learn from his past mistakes, naming a team sheet that had no Fernandinho, nor Rodri. Instead, he went with Raheem Sterling on the left flank, with Ilkay Gundogan playing a deeper role just ahead of City’s backline.
On the contrary, Thomas Tuchel kept things simple and set Chelsea up in a manner that had brought success in his previous two encounters against Guardiola’s City. Soon, Chelsea’s set up created problems for Manchester City, with Timo Werner failing to capitalise three good chances.
The Blues suffered a big blow late in the first half after Thiago Silva sustained an injury. Andreas Christensen replaced the veteran Brazilian in the Chelsea backline.
In the 42nd minute, however, Chelsea opened the scoring through Kai Havertz, who drifted between Ruben Dias and John Stones and latched on to Mount’s exquisite through pass before rounding Ederson and putting the ball into an empty net. It was a richly deserved lead for Tuchel’s Chelsea, who were the better side in the first half.
City’s misery had no stopping after half-time and they grew further when Kevin de Bruyne was forced off after 60 minutes following a bodycheck by Antonio Rudiger, who was cautioned for his cynical play. Gabriel Jesus replaced De Bruyne, as Guardiola hoped for an immediate response from the Brazilian striker.
Tuchel turned to Christian Pulisic in the 66th minute, an injection of fresh legs and energy after Werner had ran himself down. And Pulisic had a golden opportunity to double Chelsea’s money in the 73rd minute, only to narrowly arrow his shot wide after Ederson closed him down quickly.
City turned up the ante, but Chelsea kept their shape and defended very well in numbers. Guardiola turned towards Sergio Aguero, who was making his last appearance for the Cityzens after a decade-long service. However, Chelsea players threw their bodies in front of shots and on the line to keep City at bay.
Seven minutes were added on top of 90 and the stoppage time passed away in a jiffy, ending with Riyad Mahrez going agonisingly close for Guardiola’s City. Chelsea fans finally celebrated after their team lifted the second Champions League trophy in nine years.
As for City fans, it ended in heartbreak with Guardiola paying a costly price once again for his tactical tinkering.