Five things we learned as Chelsea win Champions League

Five things we learned as Chelsea win Champions League
Man City 1-0 Chelsea: Kai Havertz scored the winner as Thomas Tuchel’s side triumphed in Porto

Chelsea won the Champions League for the second time after defeating Manchester City 1-0 in an all-English final in Porto.

Record-signing Kai Havertz scored the vital goal in the 42nd minute as Thomas Tuchel won the competition in his first season at the club.

Premier League champions City, who were playing in their first final and were trying to win the competition for the first time, threw on record goalscorer Sergio Aguero but the striker could not find an equaliser on his last appearance for the team.

Here are five things we learned from Porto…

Chelsea and Tuchel complete turnaround

Chelsea’s Champions League win under Thomas Tuchel is a story of redemption, rejuvenation and, perhaps, a sign of things to come.

The German was a defeated Champions League finalist with Paris Saint-Germain less than a year ago and in January took over a Chelsea side that was eighth in the Premier League.

It’s only been a little over four months since then and Tuchel has completely turned their fortunes around. A run to Champions League glory would have been unthinkable at the start of the year, but it has been built by world-class organisation and elite management.

Tuchel has now won all three of his meetings with Guardiola’s City and while some may argue that they have yet to face the Premier League champions at their best, Chelsea’s shape, structure and pressure off the ball is a key reason for that.

Additionally, Champions League final success could give the team confidence to mount a full-scale attack on the Premier League title – just as it did with Liverpool in 2019. We can expect many more battles between Chelsea and City to come, as well as the one over 38 matches next season.

Guardiola’s selection backfires

The big talking point when the starting line-ups were announced a little more than an hour before the match was Pep Guardiola selecting neither Rodri or Fernandinho in his team.

In some ways, we should know to expect the unexpected when it comes to Guardiola’s line-ups, but in this instance surprise was merited. Either Fernandinho or Rodri had started all but one of City’s 60 matches prior to this one.

It was always going to be a decision that would frame the post-match discourse surrounding the Manchester City manager – it would either be another tactical masterclass from the Spaniard or the latest example of Guardiola ‘overthinking’ a big team selection in the Champions League.

However you look at it, it was hard to argue that Guardiola’s side looked far below their usual standards. City were not only open at the back, with Ruben Dias and John Stones exposed in the heart of their defence, but they also seemed to be missing their usual attacking patterns and rarely troubled the Chelsea goal.

City’s chances took a cruel blow when Kevin de Bruyne was forced off with a head injury shortly before the hour, but even with the influential Belgian on the pitch City looked short. Sergio Aguero and Gabriel Jesus were introduced in an attempt to find the equaliser but Edouard Mendy was untroubled in the Chelsea goal.

Ten years after his last Champions League triumph, Guardiola’s wait for another victory in this competition goes on. The conversation around the Spaniard’s big-game tactics will not be continue too.

Kante proves decisive again

N’Golo Kante’s performance against Manchester City was so good it even had Twitter in unanimous agreement.

The Chelsea man is one of the most popular players in the game and the Frenchman has now won the Premier League (twice), the Champions League and the World Cup in the space of five seasons, while playing a central role in each success.

There had been some suggestions that Kante had not been at his best in recent seasons, while playing under Maurizio Sarri and Frank Lampard, but the midfield has returned to his best form over the past four months under Tuchel.

In displays such as this one against City, his incredible ability to read the play and predict where the ball is going to be, coupled with his endless energy, allows Kante to dominate any midfield matchup he faces – even when playing in a midfield two.

That allows other players such as Mason Mount, who was Chelsea’s second best performer on the night, to thrive. The England international was everywhere in the first half and also deserves a mention for his performance on the biggest night of his young career.

Including his assist for Havertz’s goal, he created three chances in the first half and was tireless in his tracking back to help Ben Chilwell.

Sterling and Werner frustrate

It turned out to be another frustrating night in front of goal for Raheem Sterling and Timo Werner. Both missed big chances inside the opening 10 minutes, as their barren streaks continued.

Prior to tonight’s match, the Manchester City winger had scored just twice in his previous 18 appearances, and had not started any of the quarter-final or semi-final ties against Borussia Dortmund and PSG, while Werner had only scored two goals in his last 22 games for club and country.

As it has been for much of the season, most of their play was of a high level and caused problems for their opponent, right up until the final moments where their finishing touch let them down.

Sterling had the beating of the Chelsea backline with his pace and direct movement, such as when he latched onto Ederson’s long pass, while Werner gave Stones trouble with his runs into the channel. The German’s run to drag Ruben Dias out of position also created the space for Kai Havertz to run through on goal for Chelsea’s opener.

But neither could provide the decision breakthrough for the teams, in what has been a pattern of their seasons. Frustratingly for both, that continued in the biggest game of the season, and Sterling and Werner were substituted in the second half.

Bold approaches lead to enjoyable final

Rather than a cautious and cagey start, the pace of the opening 10 minutes was more like what you would expect in the frantic closing stages.

It was end-to-end at times throughout the first half, with both sides committing numbers forward, leaving themselves open to the counter.

The fact that the match remained goalless until shortly before half-time was remarkable. Chelsea required a last-ditch block from Antonio Rudiger to deby Phil Foden, while City were let off the hook by some wasteful finishing from Timo Werner, as well as a vital challenge from Oleksandr Zinchenko on Kai Havertz

City and Guardiola’s approach may have led to this, and the Premier League champions were certainly playing a dangerous game that didn’t payoff.

But it was similar to last season’s final between Bayern Munich and PSG, in what is further proof that modern football at the elite level is a high-stakes game of risk.

The pace of the contest eased off in the second half as Chelsea sat deeper to protect their lead. Tuchel’s side held on and City were disappointing, but it will be far from the last encounter between these two managers.

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