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As Chelsea captain Cesar Azpilicueta cradled the European Cup before throwing it into the air against the backdrop of fireworks, Pep Guardiola and his troubled Manchester City players stood far behind the podium and watched in fear.
Nine years after his first title and only 123 days after the arrival of coach Thomas Tuchel in the Champions League, Chelsea were again successful in the Champions League.
Even more misery in the biggest club competition in world football for City and Guardiola, his brilliant manager, whose rethinking again proved costly.
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Kai Havertz’s goal in the 42nd minute brought Chelsea a surprisingly comfortable 1-0 victory in the third all-English final of the Champions League on Saturday in Porto.
That the last game of a club season that was badly affected by the coronavirus pandemic was ended by a goal from Havertz felt fitting, as he suffered badly after he was almost 100 in the middle of his first year at the club Million US dollars had contracted the disease.
He’s rebounded to play a big part in Chelsea’s season-end, and has shown why the club put him at the center of their $ 300 million spree last off-season when he hit a pass from Mason Mount, the rounded goalkeeper, Ederson Moraes, pushed and rolled the ball into an empty net.
“I really don’t know what to say,” said Havertz. “I’ve waited a long time for this.”
His German compatriot Tuchel only had to wait a season to overcome disappointment at losing the 2020 final when he was in charge of Paris Saint-Germain. He was sacked by PSG in December and hired by Chelsea a month later to revive a team that got lost – and dropped to ninth place in the Premier League – and took a Champions League title four months later.
It was billed as a tactical duel between Tuchel and Guardiola, two of the most innovative coaches in the world, and there was a clear winner.
Guardiola will surely regret tinkering with a permanent team that led City to its first Champions League final and shortly before another trophy triple after winning the Premier League and the English League Cup.
It was expected to start without a striker – Guardiola preferred to do so in the Champions League knockout games – but it was a big surprise and destabilized city to go without a midfielder specialist in Fernandinho or Rodri.
The city lost its shape and its famous serenity. Guardiola, who wanted to win the Champions League for the third time as a coach and for the first time since 2011, was guilty of reconsidering his tactics in a big game – as he had done in the past City’s quarter-finals against Lyon, Tottenham and Liverpool had done 3 years.
“I did what I thought was the best decision,” said Guardiola.
However, it was a decision that failed. Ilkay Gundogan, City’s top scorer this season and a revelation in his attacking midfield role, eventually became the midfield anchor and fought to protect City’s defense.
In fact, for Chelsea’s gate, Mount had enough time and space to pull a pass of his own half through the center of the city’s defenses that Havertz could run on.
The long, often painful and well-funded journey from City to the pinnacle of European football remains incomplete. The sight of his star midfielder Kevin De Bruyne, who came off the field in the 60th minute, slightly shaky and clearly worried after a head fight with Antonio Rüdiger, increased the pain and made a comeback even more unlikely.
Sergio Aguero came in for his final appearance in City in the 76th minute after 10 years of trophies, but the Argentine striker failed to produce late exploits this time around.
The City players slumped to the ground at the final whistle as Rüdiger sprinted the full length of the field to celebrate with the nearly 6,000 Chelsea fans who made up the 14,110 spectators at the Estadio do Dragao, a late replacement location for the originally planned title match in Turkey to be staged.
Tuchel played in the field with his daughters. Christian Pulisic, who was the first American player to appear in a Champions League final as a substitute in the second half, posed with the trophy in a US sweatshirt. Mount burst into tears when he saw his father in the stands.
“What a team Man City are – you saw what they did in the Premier League,” said Mount. “It was such a tough game. We scored a goal and defended well the whole game.”
City never had the control Guardiola so longs for, and could easily have given more credit to the counterattack.
Werner, who operated the canals far behind City’s full back, had already missed two great opportunities in front of the goal. He had first given Havertz’s setback and then fired tamely at Ederson from close range.
In the second half Pulisic ran on Havertz ‘pass, but shot just wide of the post.
That hasn’t stopped Chelsea from becoming the 13th multiple European champions. As of 2012, Tuchel became the third German in a row to coach a team in the Champions League that won the Champions League after Liverpool’s Jürgen Klopp in 2019 and Hansi Flick at Bayern Munich last season.
“It’s a big step to reach the final and it’s an even bigger step to fight your way through and make it to the trophy,” said Tuchel. “It’s a fantastic achievement.”