Havertz crowns Chelsea European champions as Pep’s tinkering backfires on Man City

Date published: Saturday 29th May 2021 9:57 - Steve Pearson

Chelsea celebrating Kai Havertz's goal, Champions League final v Man City, May 2021

Kai Havertz helped crown Chelsea Champions League winners for the second time after Man City were made to rue a strange tactical selection by Pep Guardiola.

Man City were seeking their first ever Champions League trophy, while Chelsea were aiming to double their tally in this competition having previously lifted the cup in 2012. Pep Guardiola sprung a surprise with his team selection, opting against starting either of his recognised holding midfielders Rodri or Fernandinho. It was just the second match this season that neither player had been named in a starting line-up.

Thomas Tuchel’s eleven was rather more predictable, barring the minor surprise of selecting both Kai Havertz and Timo Werner to start in the forward line.

Both sets of fans roared at every moment and challenge in a frantic opening five minutes. Each team hustled and harried the opposition’s ball carrier, so it shouldn’t have come as a surprise to see the first chance created by the one player away from the press – Ederson.

The Brazilian launched an accurate long ball into the channel for Raheem Sterling to chase. The England forward latched onto the ball but his touch evaded him at the crucial time, allowing Edouard Mendy to smother at the near post.

Timo Werner saw a scuffed shot blocked and within seconds, Sterling stretched his legs to leave Jorginho in his wake on the counter. The attack ultimately came to nothing, but the pace and tone for a thrilling final was well and truly set.

A pair of chances came and went for Werner. His shooting boots were once again missing but his movement and pace were causing havoc in Man City’s backline.

City themselves looked dangerous with every attack, and but for a heroic last-ditch tackle from Antonio Rudiger, would’ve surely taken the lead through Phil Foden.

There was no good news for Rudiger’s central defensive teammate Thiago Silva, however, when the Brazilian was replaced by Andreas Christensen after landing awkwardly from an aerial duel.

That disappointment quickly turned to elation when Chelsea took a crucial lead through Kai Havertz on the stroke of half time.

Mason Mount’s defence-splitting pass set the German free of Oleksandr Zinchenko’s slack marking. The attacker then rounded Ederson with the aid of a ricochet before slotting into the empty net.

Man City’s comeback hopes were dealt a major blow soon after the break after suffering a sickening head knock in a collision with Rudiger.

Rudiger was able to dust himself off and continue, but there was to be no such luck for the visibly upset De Bruyne who was replaced by Gabriel Jesus. Perhaps admitting his selection mistake, Bernardo Silva was also replaced by Fernandinho as Pep sought to gain greater control.

Foden and the surprisingly quiet Riyad Mahrez then combined to produce a trademark City flowing move. Mahrez fizzed the ball across the face of goal with Ilkay Gundogan waiting, but Cesar Azpilicueta showed great desire to hook the ball to safety.

Entering the final 20 minutes substitute Christian Pulisic came within a whisker of doubling the Chelsea advantage after superb work from Havertz in the build-up. The forwards combined to bamboozle several City defenders, but the American’s chipped effort drifted agonisingly wide.

City threw bodies forward in the dying embers, but as Chelsea’s backline have done all year under Tuchel, they refused to allow either opposition or ball to pass.

Seven added minutes drew roars and gasps in equal measure from the raucous crowd.

Despite their best efforts, Chelsea stood firm to secure their second Champions League trophy and Tuchel’s first in charge of the Blues.

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