Manchester City 0-1 Chelsea
Chelsea are the 2021 Champions League champions thanks to a first-half goal brilliantly converted by Kai Havertz.
16,500 fans were in the Estadio do Dragao to see a pulsating match which Thomas Tuchel’s team fully deserved to win. The Blues were imperious when they beat Real Madrid to reach the final, and after bossing the first half in Portugal they defended bravely to see out the victory.
The Champions League 2021 betting odds have backed Pep Guardiola’s Manchester City since the competition kicked off last year, but try as they might this just wasn’t the Sky Blues’ night.
Highlights of the game
Guardiola started with an attacking line-up, leaving out both of his holding midfielders, Rodri and Fernandinho. City had an early opening when Raheem Sterling got in behind the Blues defence, but with no end product, while at the other end of the pitch Timo Werner had three good chances for Chelsea in the opening 15 minutes.
Chelsea were underdogs but certainly had the measure of the Sky Blues in the opening half. Danger came from Phil Foden, but Antonio Rudiger put in a brilliant tackle to prevent a goal.
The Manchester side gradually worked their way into the game and came very close to breaking the deadlock on the half hour. Riyad Mahrez put in a man-of-the-match performance in City’s semi-final victory over Paris Saint-Germain and he was inches away from scoring when Kyle Walker made an electrifying run down the right and pulled the ball back, but the Algerian was a stud’s length away from getting a scoring touch.
But the Blues had the best chances in the first 45 minutes, and just before the break they were deservedly ahead. It was a brilliant ball from Mason Mount that carved open the City defence, and Havertz beat Ederson to the ball, flicked it past the keeper and fired coolly home.
As expected, Manchester City came out for the second half in attacking mood but Chelsea continued to stand firm. The Sky Blues’ task became harder when Kevin de Bruyne’s night came to an end after an accidental clash of heads with Rudiger. The Belgian ace was distraught as he was replaced by Gabriel Jesus.
The Sky Blues screamed for a penalty when the ball hit Reece James on his arm but to no avail, and with a quarter of the game remaining Guardiola brought Fernandinho on.
City pressed, and when Mahrez pulled back a dangerous ball Cesar Azpilicueta made a brilliant interception to deny Ilkay Gundogan a tap-in.
But as the game became stretched Chelsea had a glorious chance to double their lead; after a superb breakaway, Havertz slid the ball through to Christian Pulisic but he chipped his shot agonizingly wide.
With 15 minutes to go Guardiola threw on Sergio Aguero for his final appearance in a Sky Blue shirt, and he almost made it a fairytale finish when he lifted a shot towards the top corner but Edouard Mendy stretched and saved.
City knocked on the door but Chelsea defended for their lives and the title of European Champions.
This was Chelsea’s seventh European final and their fifth after a mid-season change of manager, and it was Tuchel’s night as he led the Blues to victory. Having guided PSG to the 2020 final, the German is the first manager to reach consecutive Champions League finals with two different teams.
At 21 years of age, Havertz is the youngest German player to score in a Champions League final since Borussia Dortmund’s Lars Ricken, against Juventus, back in 1997. And he is the first player to score his first-ever Champions League goal in a final since City’s Ilkay Gundogan did so in 2013 for BVB.
In his entire managerial career, Pep Guardiola has lost more games to Chelsea than any other team: eight in total, and three in the last eight weeks. The Blues beat Manchester City to put them out of the FA Cup and took three points off them in the league, but this one will have hurt the most.
Pep’s last Champions League triumph came in 2011 when he won the trophy as Barcelona manager …and the wait goes on.
Well folks, the flagship competition in club football is over for another year and the domestic leagues have all been concluded.
Chelsea are the European Champions while Manchester City won the Premier League. FC Bayern have won a ninth successive Bundesliga and Inter Milan wrestled the Scudetto from the grip of Juventus. Atletico Madrid won a first La Liga since 2014, while Lille beat PSG to the Ligue 1 title to spark wild celebrations in the north of France.
This was a great finale, and when we’ve tired of watching the Champions League 2021 highlights there isn’t long to wait for the next festival of football as Euro 2020 kicks off on 11th June when Italy host Turkey in Rome.