How Chelsea beat Manchester City in club football’s biggest match on Saturday night
After 100 pulsating minutes at the Estádio do Dragão in Porto, deep blue trumped light blue as Chelsea beat Manchester City to be crowned winners of the 2020-21 UEFA Champions League.
Here’s how they did it.
1. PEP’S BIZARRE TEAM SELECTION
Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola shocked pundits and fans alike by not opting for a single defensive midfielder in his starting line-up. Social media kicked into overdrive with City supporters speculating if Guardiola had fallen prey to his knack for big match experiments (read: Fernandinho on the bench) once more.
2. STERLING WASTES A GOLDEN CHANCE
With a little over eight minutes played, City’s sweeper-keeper Ederson produced a delightful through ball that sent Raheem Sterling clear on goal. But the City winger had a clumsy first touch and could not sort his feet out in time, allowing Chelsea keeper Édouard Mendy to smother the ball.
3. WERNER’S WOES CONTINUE
First, Timo Werner received a cutback in space inside the penalty box only to shoot straight at Ederson. Then, seconds later, the Chelsea star drove into the penalty area, faced up to Rúben Dias, and struck a powerful shot that hit the side-netting instead of bulging the net. Two opportunities, both squandered.
4. A GOAL-SAVING BLOCK
With almost half an hour played, Sterling and Kevin De Bruyne linked up on City’s left flank, with the Belgian playing Phil Foden in on goal. Foden unleashed an arrowing left-footed shot that should have broken the deadlock if not for a brilliant block from Antonio Rüdiger. At the right place at the right time, Rudiger’s intervention prevented City from taking the lead.
5. CHELSEA LOSE THIAGO SILVA
Thiago Silva went up to win a header against Foden and came down on the turf with what looked like an innocuous knock. But, in a matter of moments, Silva could no longer continue, courtesy of a non-contact muscle injury. Chelsea manager Thomas Tuchel reacted promptly and brought on Andreas Christensen to replace the injured veteran.
6. HAVERTZ BREAKS THROUGH
Three minutes before half-time, Mendy’s precise goal-kick found left-back Ben Chilwell, who picked out Mason Mount in the middle of the park. With acres of space, Mount supplied a sumptuous assist for Kai Havertz and the German did the rest. As Ederson scampered out, Havertz went around the City shot stopper and slotted the ball with elegant ease into the back of the net. Chelsea 1-0 Man City.
7. DE BRUYNE LEAVES IN TEARS
City suffered a hammer blow when captain De Bruyne was forced off after an accidental collision with Rüdiger near the halfway line. De Bruyne took a hit to his head and started bleeding from his left eye, which forced Guardiola to take off his most prized asset, who broke down in tears on his way to the dugout.
8. PEP SHUFFLES HIS PACK
With the game slipping away, Guardiola finally made the change we had expected him to make at half-time. Defensive midfielder Fernandinho was brought on in place of the largely invisible Bernardo Silva. The substitution instantly increased City’s control in midfield, giving them the composure that had eluded them since kick-off.
9. A CAPTAIN’S INTERCEPTION
On 63 minutes, Foden created a bit of magic from nowhere and slipped in Riyad Mahrez on the right wing. Mahrez approached the by-line and supplied a low-driven cross into the centre of the penalty area. The pass seemed set to reach İlkay Gündoğan, who would have needed a tap-in to equalise. Not to be, however, as Chelsea skipper César Azpilicueta flew in with a miraculous sliding interception to deny City.
10. PULISIC FAILS TO KILL CITY OFF
Within minutes of coming on to the pitch, Christian Pulisic was perfectly placed to put the result beyond doubt and put Chelsea 2-0 up. Released by Havertz on the break, the US forward chose to lift the ball past the onrushing Ederson, but managed to put his shot agonisingly wide.
11. AGUERO CAN’T REALISE HIS PROMISE
Playing in his last game for Man City, substitute Sergio Aguero could not come up with any last-minute heroics, unable to register a single shot on goal. In 2014, Aguero had publicly promised to never leave the club until they had won the Champions League. Fate, unfortunately, had other plans for the Argentine, who could only look on in despair as Tuchel’s Chelsea -- powered by man of the match N’Golo Kante -- hung on to their slender lead for the London club to emerge triumphant over their Manchester rivals in Porto.
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