Porto – Chelsea won the Champions League for the second time as a Kai Havertz goal secured a tense 1-0 victory over Manchester City in Saturday’s final in Porto, shattering Pep Guardiola’s dream of lifting the trophy for the third time, a decade on from his last triumph.
Havertz rounded Ederson to score three minutes before half-time at the Estadio do Dragao and the Chelsea players ran to the far end of the pitch to celebrate with the German.
Coach Thomas Tuchel, full of energy on the touchline just like his opposite number, punched the air in celebration, and later jumped with joy on the pitch after Chelsea held on for victory in the second half as City lost distraught skipper Kevin De Bruyne to injury.
The London club may have finished fourth in the Premier League, a huge 19 points behind the champions City, but this, remarkably, was their third win over Guardiola’s side in six weeks.
They shattered City’s hopes of a domestic treble when they triumphed in the FA Cup semi-finals in April and then delayed their title celebrations with victory in Manchester.
Now, in a final watched by a limited crowd of just over 14,000 fans who created a raucous atmosphere, they have denied City the first Champions League crown they and Guardiola so crave.
Abramovich’s second European Cup
City have had to wait 13 years since being taken over by Abu Dhabi’s Sheikh Mansour just to get to the Champions League final.
They are now the seventh consecutive team to lose in their first appearance at this stage. The same misfortune befell Qatar-owned Paris Saint-Germain last year as well as Tottenham Hotspur when they were beaten by Liverpool in the last all-English final in 2019.
Chelsea also lost when they first got to the final, succumbing on penalties against Manchester United in Moscow in 2008.
They overcame the final hurdle by beating Bayern Munich, also in a shoot-out, in 2012 and now they have their second European Cup to move level with Juventus, Benfica and Porto as well as another English side, Nottingham Forest.
Their transformation into one of Europe’s super clubs has been down to the riches of Roman Abramovich, their Russian oligarch owner who was in attendance at the game in Portugal.
Chelsea have been transformed since the appointment as coach in January of Tuchel, but City were still the favourites off the back of their third Premier League title triumph in four seasons.
Feeding off the energy of the crowd in a stadium that Portuguese authorities had allowed to be filled to a third of its capacity — all fans required negative Covid-19 tests to gain entry — both teams played with a level of intensity rarely seen in the last year of football in empty grounds.
Havertz’s marquee moment
City pressed high but struggled to trouble Edouard Mendy in the Chelsea goal, while at the other end Timo Werner should have done better than shoot straight at Ederson in the 14th minute.
Chelsea then suffered an injury blow as an emotional Thiago Silva was forced off hurt, Andreas Christensen taking the Brazilian’s place in central defence.
Yet it was they who opened the scoring in the 42nd minute, Mason Mount’s ball splitting the City defence with John Stones out of position, allowing Havertz — their marquee 71 million-pound ($100m) signing last summer — to go around the lunging Ederson and convert into an empty net.
City now needed to break down a Chelsea defence that has been exceptional since Tuchel came in.
But they lost De Bruyne just before the hour mark, the brilliant Belgian taken out in a collision with Antonio Ruediger that appeared to leave him concussed.
He came off in tears, and Guardiola instead turned to Sergio Aguero for the latter stages, but there was to be no glorious send-off as a City player for the Argentine, even if a Riyad Mahrez shot sailed just over in the sixth minute of injury time.
There was also no third European Cup for Guardiola, who remains one adrift of the record for the coaches with most wins in the competition, held jointly by Bob Paisley, Carlo Ancelotti and Zinedine Zidane. — AFP