Chelsea Football Club became European champions on Sunday with an astute 1-0 win over Manchester City at the Estadio do Dragao in Porto. Kai Havertz scored the only goal of the game in the first half at the back of which Chelsea won their second UEFA Champions League title. In the 42nd minute, Mason Mount released a perfect through ball towards Havertz, who got in behind the City defence. City goalkeeper Ederson came off his line and even though Havertz stumbled as he got the ball over him, he balanced himself and sent the ball home. Eventually, no one else could find the back of the net and Havertz’s goal remained the difference between the two teams.
This was Chelsea manager Thomas Tuchel‘s first Champions League title while Pep Guardiola failed to win his first European crown in a decade. Guardiola had reached a Champions League final for the first time since the 2010-11 season (with Barcelona) and it was also Manchester City’s first-ever European final. However, Guardiola and City could not get over the line as Tuchel outsmarted the Spaniard for the third time this season.
Here are a few takeaways from the final:
Guardiola’s Squad Selection
Guardiola decided to tinker with his squad in the big European game and his plan backfired. City usually have a holding midfielder in the middle of the park in order to break the opposition’s moves and facilitate the transition from defence to attack. However, on Sunday, Guardiola did not start either of Fernandinho or Rodrigo and instead put Ilkay Gundogan in the defensive role.
Due to Gundogan’s positioning, his offensive play was curbed and he could not provide the solidity in the middle, which meant Manchester City were unable to control the game from the middle of the park and Chelsea got ample opportunities to break through the line quickly.
Fernandinho came on in the 64th minute but by then Chelsea had control of the proceedings and the lead and City, even though tried hard and forced their way, couldn’t find the back of the net. Even Sergio Aguero came on late and was impactful but Guardiola was just too late to make those changes.
Tuchel had set up his team extremely well defensively, with the pace to break through up the left flank with Ben Chilwell’s speed. Tuchel’s strategy was to hold the play, win the ball in the midfield or on the flanks and then break away quickly. Chelsea attackers in Havertz and Timo Werner constantly looked to get in behind the City defence and get to the end of through passes or precise deliveries from Mount, Chilwell or N’Golo Kante. Even when Christian Pulisic came on, he looked to be deploying the same strategy and even got to the end of a fantastic through pass from Havertz but was unable to bury the chance.
Kante is an extremely vital cog in any team he plays in - Chelsea and the French national team currently and Leicester City previously. Kante is that ball of energy that breaks and creates attacks. In the Champions League final, Kante made 10 ball recoveries in over 90 minutes and put up a tireless show. Kante’s sense of positioning was at its best, where he was always in the right place at the right time. Kante won possession, drove forward, helped in counter-attack. He even played a vital role in stopping Kevin de Bruyne for whatever time the Belgian was on the field.
Chelsea showed impeccable defending in the Champions League final, where each player stepped up and did his job. Captain Cesar Azpilicueta held his position well and did not let himself just chase Raheem Sterling. He was there to make last-ditch clearances, claim crosses and let well from behind. Antonio Rudiger will most well be remembered in the final for his outstanding last-ditch tackle against Phil Foden, where he was certain to score. Reece James shut down Sterling brilliant all through the night. He was disciplined and did very well in one-on-one duels. Chilwell did very well to deal with Riyad Mahrez, attacked with his pace, created chances, and was extremely dynamic.