KEIR RADNEDGE REPORTING —- Kai Havertz’s first-ever Champions League goal delivered Chelsea’s second UEFA Champions League with a first-half strike which defeated a disappointing Manchester City 1-0.
For City the wait goes on for at least another season. They can win everything else but not the one prize their Abu Dhabi owners want above all else. The magic which worked twice for manager Pep Guardiola with Barcelona a decade ago continued to fail him as it did in three blank European years with Bayern Munich and now five with City.
This could have been the Super League Final, apart from the fact that both clubs had stepped back from the mad springtime brink and recommitted themselves, shame-faced, to the European establishment.
Porto, late substitute venue for Istanbul, saw only a third all-English final after Chelsea’s 2008 shootout defeat by Manchester United and Liverpool’s 2019 win over Tottenham.
Thomas Tuchel thus became the third successive German coach to win the final after Jurgen Klopp with Liverpool in 2019 and Hansi Flick – at Tuchel’s expense – with Bayern Munich a year ago.
The manner in which Tuchel, since February, turned Chelsea from midtable muddlers to European champions vindicated owner Roman Abramovich in appointing him in place of Frank Lampard.
No doubt that Chelsea deserved their success which will also prompt debate over whether Guardiola was again guilty of over-thinking his European strategy.
He shook up his Premier League winners by recalling Raheem Sterling back into attack and playing without a midfield anchor. That forced Ilkay Gundogan deeper than usual and cost City his value as an attacking force.
Sterling did very nearly sneak in behind the Chelsea defence in the opening exchanges but Chelsea were more dangerous. Timo Werner squandered two half-chances and when City did threaten again a superbly-timed tackle from Antonio Rudiger foiled goal-bound Phil Foden.
Chelsea met a setback in the 38th minute when they lost injured Thiago Silva but they overcame it in style.
Within minutes they were celebrating what proved the only goal. A penetrating move launched by keeper Edouard Mendy was brilliantly carried on by Mason Mount whose pass carved open City’s defence for the coltish Havertz to step over Ederson and shoot into the empty net.
This was the first time Chelsea had ever been in front in a Champions League final after having fallen behind against both Manchester United in 2008 and then Bayern Munich in 2012.
Out of luck
This was also a lead they never looked in danger of relinquishing even though, in the second half, they saw much less of the ball.
City scrambled forward with increased urgency, particularly once injury had removed Kevin de Bruyne. They had a penalty claim rejected by referee Antonio Mateu Lahoz and his VAR assistant after a Foden shot was blocked by James but were vulnerable on the counter-attack.
Christian Pulisic might have marked his slice of history, as the first American to play in a Champions League Final, with a goal but his shot on the break drifted wide of a post.
Briefly the eagerness of Gabriel Jesus brought new spark into City’s attack but even late-arriving Sergio Aguero was unable to work his own brand of goal-area magic in his last minutes as a City player.
The seven minutes of stoppage time saw City reduced to lofting high balls into a penalty box where Chelsea’s tall defenders were always head and shoulders above what proved to be only lightweight opposition.
Manchester City: Ederson – Walker, Ruben Dias, Stones, Zinchenko – Bernardo Silva (Fernandinho 64), Gundogan, De Bruyne (Gabriel Jesus 60) – Mahrez, Sterling (Aguero 77), Foden. Unused subs: Ake, Aguero, Steffen, Laporte, Rodri, Torres, Mendy, Joao Cancelo, Carson, Garcia. Manager: Guardiola.
Chelsea: Mendy – James, Thiago Silva (Christensen), Rudiger – Azpilicueta, Kante, Jorginho, Chilwell – Mount (Kovacic 80), Havertz – Werner (Pulisic 66). Unused subs: Kepa Arrizabalaga, Alonso, Caballero, Zouma, Giroud, Hudson-Odoi, Ziyech, Gilmour, Emerson Palmieri. Manager: Tuchel.
Referee: A M Mateu Lahoz (Spain).