Kai Havertz’s first-ever Champions League goal delivered Chelsea’s second such crown with a first-half strike which defeated a disappointing Manchester City 1-0 in Porto.
WAIT GOES ON For City the wait goes on for at least another season. They can win everything else but not the one prize their Abu Dhabi owners want above all else.
The magic which worked twice for manager Pep Guardiola with Barcelona a decade ago continued to fail him as it did in three blank European years with Bayern Munich and now five with City.
Porto, late substitute venue for Istanbul, saw a third all-English final after Chelsea’s 2008 shootout defeat by Manchester United and Liverpool’s 2019 win over Tottenham. Thomas Tuchel is the third successive German coach to win the final after Jurgen Klopp with Liverpool in 2019 and Hansi Flick – at Tuchel’s expense – with Bayern Munich a year ago.
LAST LAUGH Tuchel had the last laugh on Paris Saint-Germain who sacked him in mid-season and left him available to replace Frank Lampard at Chelsea. Having lost the European final with PSG a year ago he was thrilled to emerge as a winner second time around.
He said: “I don’t know what to feel. I was so grateful to arrive a second time in the final. The players were determined to win this. We encouraged everybody to step up and step out, to be more brave and create dangerous counter-attacks.”
OVER-THINKING PEP? Chelsea deserved a success which will prompt debate over whether Guardiola was again guilty of over-thinking his European strategy. He shook up his Premier League winners by recalling Raheem Sterling in attack and playing without a midfield anchor. That restrained Ilkay Gundogan who had been such a powerful attacking force in the Premier League.
Sterling almost sneaked in behind the Chelsea defence in the opening exchanges but Chelsea were more dangerous. Timo Werner squandered two half-chances and when City did threaten again a superbly-timed tackle from Antonio Rudiger foiled goal-bound Phil Foden.
HAVERTZ SCORES Chelsea met a setback in the 38th minute in losing injured Thiago Silva but they overcame it in style to take the lead through Havertz who duly repaid the club record £70m fee paid to Bayer Leverkusen last year.
This was a lead they never looked in danger of relinquishing even though, in the second half, they saw much less of the ball.
INCREASED URGENCY City scrambled forward with increased urgency, particularly once injury had removed Kevin de Bruyne. This rendered them vulnerable to Chelsea counter-attacks. Substitute Christian Pulisic might have marked with a goal a slice of history, as the first American to play in a Champions League Final, but his shot on the break drifted wide.
Briefly the eagerness of Gabriel Jesus brought new spark into Guardiola’s attack but even late-arriving Sergio Aguero could not work his old brand of goal-area magic in his last minutes as a City player.
NO REGRETS Guardiola had no regrets about his team selection.
He said: “I did what I thought was the best decision. We had chances. We were brilliant in the second half, we were brave and we could not convert the chances [because] they were so strong. The players were exceptional. It was the first time we were at this stage. Hopefully we will be here again in the future.”
Source: Keir Radnedge| AIPS Football Delegate