Three things learned from Man City - Chelsea; Champions League Final
Chelsea won the UEFA Champions League for the second time as Kai Havertz’s goal was enough for Thomas Tuchel’s men in a 1-0 upset defeat of Manchester City at Saturday’s final in Portugal.
Tuchel returned to the final after losing with PSG last season and denied City at the first time of asking for its long-desired European Cup, Chelsea’s boss essentially depriving Man City of a quadruple after knocking the Premier League and League Cup champions out of the FA Cup and Champions League.
Mason Mount assisted Havertz’s goal and Chelsea limited Man City to six shots on 60 percent possession.
Three Four things learned from Man City - Chelsea in the UEFA Champions League Final
1. How did Chelsea do it? Thomas Tuchel and N’Golo Kante: Sure, the Mount to Havertz goal is huge and Thomas Tuchel should be lauded for starting the latter, a move doubted by many (tepidly raises hand). But N’Golo Kante was an absolute monster, already one of the best players of his generation now adding another accolade that will get him consideration as one of the greatest and most-decorated players in the history of our game.
Kante not only was a disruptor of Man City attacks on many occasions despite his status after an injury being questioned until the moment he touched the ball, but the World Cup, Premier League, and now UEFA Champions League winner also led a long dribble that might’ve led to an opening goal had Oleksandr Zinchenko not picked off Havertz’s dribble.
And how about Tuchel, who’s led Chelsea over City thrice in the last two months. One was a PL match that City didn’t need, but the other two were elimination games on the road to silverware. Tuchel took over Chelsea, plugged in Jorginho and Antonio Rudiger to fix defending and possession, and deprived Man City of a quadruple.
2. Man City still needs a European Cup as Pep again raises questions: Manchester City paid an awful lot of money for Rodri and has paid a lot of money to not find a star left back. So Pep Guardiola leaving Rodri on the bench and seeing Oleksandr Zinchenko -- who did have a shot-saving tackle earlier on Havertz -- exposed on the Chelsea’s opener will leave people asking a lot of questions. Only Ruben Dias and Ederson played more Premier League minutes than Rodri, a ball progression monster and safety valve.
He’s the best manager in the world, but he’s now blown it with his tactics and player selection on multiple occasions, failing to trust the expansive and wonderful style that made him a legend.
3. De Bruyne injured: Man City star and Premier League Player of the Year -- perhaps soon holding the honor two-times running -- Kevin De Bruyne was left in tears when an Antonio Rudiger tactical foul doubled as a KDB ouster, the Belgian star coming off in the 60th minute with an injury. He was not anywhere near his best before the injury, but his removal from the match with 30 minutes left sure cast a pall over Man City’s comeback chances. And how about Guardiola’s choice to plug Gabriel Jesus into his place and then Fernandinho instead of Rodri?
4. Pulisic makes history: Jovan Kirovski may have won the Champions League as an unused sub with Borussia Dortmund and Neven Subotic been an American-born finalist with the same German giants, but it’s BVB academy product Christian Pulisic who is the first USMNT player to hit the pitch in a UEFA Champions League Final, and he played well in the win.
Man of the Match: N’Golo Kante
Two interceptions, three tackles, two clearances, and 11 of 15 duels won. He also drew two fouls, had a key pass, and completed two of two dribbles.
Man City - Chelsea UEFA Champions League Final recap
Raheem Sterling won a corner in the opening passages of play as City poured forward with good energy.
Chelsea then attacked in the ninth minute and John Stones’ awkward header led to a Kai Havertz pass to Timo Werner in front of goal, but the ensuing shot was blocked.
Mason Mount led a rush and picked out Timo Werner but the pass in the striker’s feet and the hit went to Ederson. Moments later, Werner cut past John Stones and smashed into the outside of the goal.
Antonio Rudiger slid to deprive Phil Foden of an opener in the 27th minute, nerves and desperation still obvious in Portugal.
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N’Golo Kante showed no rust or limitations in driving the ball 60 yards to set up Kai Havertz on the right of the box, but Oleksandr Zinchenko cut out the chance with a clean tackle.
But Chelsea went ahead just before halftime when Mount swept a perfect pass onto Havertz’s equally well-timed run, getting the ball through Ederson to cut inside the goal.
Andreas Christensen made a tremendous intervention to stop a cross from reaching its back post target when Phil Foden slid to put City deep into the box.
Pulisic nearly had it 2-0 mere minutes after entering the fray, springing a rush with Havertz than ended with a sliding effort wide of the far post.
Mendy leapt at full-extension to corral super sub Sergio Aguero’s bid to chip an assist either inside the back post or to a receiver there, the score line remaining 1-0 in the 85th.