When Thomas Tuchel was given the job of reviving Chelsea at the end of January, he wanted to return them to next season’s Champions League via a top-four Premier League finish. The notion that he might actually win the thing for only the second time in the club’s history was ludicrous.
Not any more. On a night of glory for him and his team, the manager applied the final brush strokes to his renaissance masterpiece, out-manoeuvring his friend and rival, Pep Guardiola, and watching Kai Havertz score the decisive goal just before half-time.
Manchester City 0-1 Chelsea:
player ratings from the Champions League finalChelsea defended like demons to snuff out Manchester City but this was a perfectly calibrated triumph, built upon a structured attacking approach, choosing the right moments to transition, and illuminated by the smoothness of Havertz’s technique.
At the end, after the seven minutes of stoppage time had expired, with Riyad Mahrez having lifted a shot just off target for City with practically the last kick, and as the players in dark blue were overtaken by wide-eyed wonder, by the adrenaline main-lining their systems, Tuchel was relatively calm, trying to take it all in.
At the end of last season, Tuchel had been on the losing side in Europe’s showpiece final when his Paris Saint-Germain team were edged out by Bayern Munich. Perhaps the pain made this even sweeter.
What is irrefutable is how virtually everything Tuchel has touched since taking over from Frank Lampard has turned to gold. There has been the successful switch to a back three, which was plotted on the flight over from Paris on the day before his first game – his team have kept 19 clean sheets in 30 matches in all competitions – and the rise up from ninth in the league to the goal of fourth.
Crazed conductor Pep Guardiola sees Champions League dream fall apart
The one blot has been the FA Cup final loss to Leicester but that is old news, laid to rest by the delirium of all this. Tuchel remembers Chelsea’s first Champions League victory as a “burglary” against Bayern in 2012. This was nothing of the sort and, after a third win in three against Guardiola’s City, he can look forward to a lucrative new contract, replacing that one that will run out next summer.
Havertz was the Chelsea hero, oozing class on the ball, looking every inch the high-end addition from last summer, but N’Golo Kanté ran him close, as he did everybody in a City shirt. The midfielder’s reading of the game, coupled with his speed and decisiveness, was a joy to watch, while Antonio Rüdiger stood out in a defence that absorbed the 38th minute loss of Thiago Silva to injury.
City’s misery was reflected in the tears of their captain, Kevin De Bruyne, when he was forced off on 59 minutes after a cynical check by Rüdiger and the questions raged long into the night for Guardiola.