Last weekend saw the biggest game in club soccer take place. I wrote a preview of the final in my article last week. The game was an all English affair between Thomas Tuchel’s Chelsea and Pep Guardiola’s Manchester City. Man City went in as heavy favourites but it was Chelsea who came out on top and triumphed in Porto. In this article, I will review the game and run you through some of the biggest talking points from the match.
The city rightly went into the final as heavy favourites. This season they have won both the Premier League and League cup and been in scintillating form throughout 2021. On the other hand, Chelsea were trophy less going into the game having lost the FA Cup final a few weeks before.
The game started openly as both sides had a number of chances. Raheem Sterling had the first big chance as he got in behind Chelsea from Ederson’s long ball. This was followed by a couple of chances at the other end as Timo Werner squandered two big chances for the blues. Phil Foden was then slid in by Kevin De Bruyne before Antonio Rudiger made a superb last-ditch block to deny the young Englishman.
In the 42nd minute, Mason Mount picked up the ball in his own half before turning and putting an inch-perfect pass into the path of Kai Havertz. The German youngster went round Ederson and tapped into an empty net to give the West London side a crucial lead heading into halftime.
The first big moment of the second half saw Kevin De Bruyne forced off after a coming together with Rudiger. This deprived City of their most creative player and handed Chelsea even more control. The biggest chance of the second half soon fell to Christian Pulisic but he shot wide after being put through by Havertz. This meant a nervous final 15 minutes as Chelsea defended their slender lead. However, the blues had enough class and resilience to hold strong and win their second Champions League title.
In fairness, Manchester City never offered enough and actually only had 1 shot on target throughout the 90 minutes. This was mainly due to Chelsea’s excellent defence. They were outstanding and the whole backline played a massive part in the victory. N’Golo Kante was awarded man of the match but anyone from Ben Chilwell, Reece James, Antonio Rudiger or Cesar Azpilicueta would have deserved it.
The Blues were by far the best team across the 90 minutes and deservedly secured their second Champions League title. For City, it was a disastrous night in which they and their fans expected so much more. It will be interesting to see how the Manchester side recover. Will next season finally be the year that they win their first Champions League?
Did Guardiola get it wrong?
Pep Guardiola came in for a lot of criticism after the match. The Spaniard is usually spot on with his tactics and is widely regarded as the best manager in world soccer. However, he bizarrely altered the way that City have played all season prior to the final. In 60 games this season, City have only once started a game without one of Rodri or Fernandinho starting in a central midfield role. The main reason for this being that it provides the side with more control and defensive strength.
However, for the Champions League final, Pep decided to start without either of these two for a second time. He changed his lineup and opted to play without a recognized defensive midfielder. Instead, he played the attack-minded Ilkay Gundogan in the holding position which allowed Chelsea’s midfielders to control the game. Making such a big gamble in a massive game has rightly earned Guardiola a fair amount of criticism.
As I wrote about previously, City had the chance for a historic year and the chance to win 4 trophies. However, having lost in the FA Cup Semi-Finals to Chelsea, the blues repeated the trick in the Champions League. The city still ends the year with the Premier League and League Cup but at one point it looked like being a whole lot better.
For Chelsea, it has been a special second half of the season. Since parting ways with Frank Lampard, the blues have gone from strength to strength. Tuchel’s side was disappointed after the FA Cup final defeat. However, winning the Champions League more than makes up for that game and will mean the blues go into next season full of confidence.
Both sides will be busy this summer. Many expect both clubs to spend big in the transfer window with both seemingly in need of a world-class center forward. The names which spring to mind are Harry Kane, Erling Haaland and Romelu Lukaku. I have previously ranked all 3 within my top 5 strikers in soccer. If City and Chelsea can sign one of these three then they could dominate English and European soccer again next season. It promises to be a fascinating next few months.