© Reuters. Soccer Football – UEFA Champions League Final – Manchester City v Chelsea – Estadio do Dragao, Porto, Portugal – May 29, 2021 Chelsea’s Kai Havertz scores his first Pool goal via REUTERS / Jose Coelho
By Simon Evans
PORTO, Portugal (Reuters) – Chelsea won their second Champions League title and denied Manchester City’s Pep Guardiola their first after Kai Havertz scored in the first half to claim a 1-0 victory in the final entirely English Saturday at the Estadio Do Dragao.
The young German, Chelsea record signing, kept his cool as he crossed and evaded goalkeeper Ederson before rolling the ball into an empty net in the 42nd minute to decide a close encounter ahead a crowd of 16,500 people.
Premier League champions City were favorites heading into the final but suffered a desperately disappointing night in their first flagship Champions League game.
Despite winning three of the last four Premier League titles for City, Spaniard Guardiola has failed to deliver the coveted European trophy he last won with Barcelona in 2011.
For German Chelsea manager Thomas Tuchel, the triumph comes after his side of Paris St Germain were defeated in last season’s final against Bayern Munich and just four months after taking over from Frank Lampard at the western club from London.
“Sharing it with everyone is amazing. We did it. Wow. I don’t know what to feel,” Tuchel said. “I was so grateful to arrive a second time (in the final). I felt different.
“The (players) were determined to win. We wanted to be a stone in their (City) ‘s shoe. We encouraged everyone to get up and go out, to be more courageous,” he said.
As Tuchel secured his approach spot, Guardiola’s squad selection was surprising with Raheem Sterling brought to the left, neither regular midfielder Fernandinho or Rodri chose and Ilkay Gundogan left for protect the rear line.
It quickly became clear that the move had left City’s defense exposed with Chelsea creating early chances, three of which fell to German Timo Werner who failed to capitalize – cheating on one, gently pulling on Ederson, then finding the side net.
Gundogan’s already difficult task became more difficult when he was penalized for fouling Mason Mount in the 34th minute.
Chelsea also suffered a setback when experienced Brazilian center-back Thiago Silva awkwardly fell after a header and had to limp six minutes before the break, replaced by Andreas Christensen.
However, three minutes later, Chelsea struck. Midfielder Mount split the city’s defense with a superb ball and Ederson rushed out of his goal, but couldn’t stop Havertz from passing him and slipping into the unguarded net.
City’s night worsened when key midfielder Kevin De Bruyne suffered a concussion injury after an accidental clash with Antonio Rudiger left him on the ground, Guardiola throwing Brazilian striker Gabriel Jesus in his place.
Christian Pulisic came for Chelsea to become the first American to make a Champions League final and almost the first to score when he was slipped by Havertz, but then drifted his shot right off the post.
City gradually started to gain the upper hand, but their usual composure was lacking and it was only in the downtime that they came close with a hopeful effort from Riyad Mahrez that cut the bar.
The final whistle sparked fierce celebrations for Chelsea fans who had flown to the game, as discouraged City supporters headed for the return flights to Manchester.
“The decisions are always to try to win the game,” said Guardiola, when asked to think about his team’s selection.
“The way we played the game in the second half, they had a counterattack with Pulisic. It’s a very good team, but we competed perfectly against them. In the second half we deserved to score a goal, but we couldn’t do it. “
“I would like to say it has been an exceptional season for us. Unfortunately we couldn’t win. We tried, but we couldn’t and we will work harder from here on,” added the Spaniard, whose team won the League Cup. go with their Premier League crown.
Tuchel faced City three times in six weeks and won each time. Russian Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich, who watches from the stands, must have smiled wryly as his ruthless approach to leadership changes once again paid off.