SOMETIMES there is a lot to be said for conventional wisdom – sometimes there is glory to be found in the bleeding obvious.
Thomas Tuchel sent out a well-balanced, well-drilled, football team and saw Chelsea deservedly crowned champions of Europe.
Pep Guardiola, meanwhile, crossed that precarious line between genius and insanity and decided that a Champions League Final was the right time to conduct one of his mad-professor experiments.
Manchester City’s great alchemist ended up concocting only a stink-bomb as a City team without a defensive midfielder or a striker was thoroughly out-played.
Tuchel has now defeated City three times in six weeks, in three different competitions.
And this victory – secured by a Kai Havertz strike after a masterful Mason Mount through-ball had exploited the glaring weakness in Guardiola’s – was the most significant of the German’s career.
What an impact Tuchel has had since replacing Frank Lampard in January.
And what a performance this was from Chelsea – there were heroic displays from Havertz, Mount, the hyperactive N’Golo Kante, the granite Toni Rudiger and two outstanding English full-backs, Reece James and Ben Chilwell.
James will have to empty out Raheem Sterling from his pocket before the pair meet up for England duty next week.
But Chelsea’s second European Cup came courtesy of a serious assist from Guardiola.
WIN £50,000 with Dream Team Euros
Dream Team Euros is HERE!
The best fantasy football game to accompany Euro 2020 has arrived.
And you can play absolutely FREE for your chance to win the £50,000 jackpot.
CLICK HERE TO SIGN UP FOR FREE!
Dream Team Euros
- £50,000 jackpot
- The best fantasy football game this summer
- Play in mini-leagues against your mates, colleagues, family members – and some hand-picked celebrities
- FREE to play
The Catalan has been accused of over-thinking his line-ups so often in Champions League knock-out matches that there was an element of sheer bloodymindedness in his refusal to start with either Fernandinho or Rodri in midfield.
His ‘false nine’ ploy has often been successful for Guardiola but not here – Kevin De Bruyne looking lost before he was forced off through injury early in the second half.
Guardiola was brought to the Etihad to conquer Europe and despite all his outstanding achievements in other competitions, he has fallen short again.
City failed to ask a serious save of keeper Edouard Mendy.
Perhaps Harry Kane will arrive and prove to be the missing link – but this defeat is going to sting like hell because Guardiola will know how culpable he was.
This was a Champions League Final which seemed inevitable since the Abu Dhabi takeover of 2008, which blew Roman Abramovich out of the water financially – the Chelsea owner having overpowered the rest of English football five years earlier.
Uefa did not want City to be here – they were banned from this year’s competition, and next, for financial chicanery but their punishment was overturned on appeal.
Then came the saga of the breakaway European Super League which threatened to wipe out this grand old competition – Chelsea and City both joining up, attempting to shut out the non-elite clubs just as the old elite once wished to keep them out.
Yet for all the billions and all the politics, this promised to be a football match to savour.
Guardiola had sprung one of his customary big-match surprises – not only was there no specialist centre forward but no genuine holding midfielder either.
The City boss loves little creative players – and so he picked five of them to start here, with his leading scorer, Ilkay Gundogan, employed as anchorman.
Porto’s Estadio do Dragao was a late stand-in for Istanbul, allowing 14,100 to attend – including 6,000 fans of each club who had been taking full advantage of the chance to drink in the sunshine.
City’s supporters booed the Champions League anthem – a welcome return to normality.
And before the smog from the pre-match fireworks had fully cleared, Ederson was pinging a 70-yard pass on to the toes of Sterling, who was eventually robbed by James – a theme for the evening.
But City were soon back-pedalling wildly as Chelsea attacked with speed and conviction – there were slips from John Stones and misses from Timo Werner – who then shot straight at Ederson when he might have scored.
It felt as if Tuchel’s men had been heartened by Guardiola’s left-field selection and were intent on punishing it.
There was a saving tackle from Rudiger to deny Phil Foden and Thiago Silva limped off before half-time, replaced by Andreas Christensen.
But when Chelsea took the lead two minutes before the break, it was fully merited.
Chilwell fed Mount and his diagonal pass embarrassed City, locating the gap between Ruben Dias and Oleksandr Zinchenko, and sending Havetrtz clean through.
Ederson rushed out of his goal like a man fleeing a chip-pan fire but Havertz rolled it around him, steadied himself and tucked into an empty net.
It has taken time for Havertz to settle but this is a footballer to cherish and that was likely to be the first of many telling contributions to A-list occasions.
De Bruyne limped early in the second half after a heavy challenge from Rudiger – Gabriel Jesus on in his place.
Immediately, City were appealing for a penalty, believing Sterling’s shot had struck James on the arm – but ref Antonio Mateu Lahoz, and his VAR, were having none of it.
Fernandinho then replaced Bernardo Silva as Guardiola reverted to convention – and Jesus was soon causing problems which Chelsea’s three-man central defence had not experienced in the opening hour.
But Havertz soon sprinted clear and fed sub Christian Pulisic, who rolled his effort agonisingly wide, Tuchel performing histrionics on the touchline.
But after Riyad Mahrez went close deep in injury-time, the German was dancing with delight – and Guardiola was left scratching that overactive head of his.
⚽ Read our Football live blog for the very latest news from around the grounds
Source: Read Full Article