PORTO (EFE) – The game of chess, the meeting of strategists, the battle of slates was decided by a spark. A masterful pass from Mason Mount to Kai Havertz that destroyed the hopes of being champion of Pep Guardiola and his Manchester City and placed the second Champions to the showcases of Chelsea (0-1).
As if it were the 2012 final, Chelsea re-emerged as underdog to surprise and rely on the drawing of Thomas Tuchel, the genius of his young people and the experience of the captain to conquer the second Champions League and deny Guardiola is a honey who has been resisting him for ten years and who will have to continue chasing with a first-time City and unadapted to these games.
The final, decided by experience, took off his chess game clothes to make way for a frenzied round trip, which left the predictions of a closed match in minor cloth. City hunted down Chelsea’s defense, still stretching, with a long ball from Ederson to Sterling, which was annulled by Reece James at the last minute.
But in this unexpected start of madness, there was a constant with respect to the rest of the season: the imprecision of a Timo Werner denied in front of the goal. The German had two in the space of five minutes. A shot in the air with everything in favor in the front of the small area; a shot in front of Ederson that sent the doll. City responded with a heads-up from Phil Foden that Rudiger took out ‘in extremis’. And at the height of it all, Thiago Silva was injured, aware that fortune denied him another opportunity like last year.
But the blow did not drown Chelsea. The City was still uncomfortable, used to dominating rather than being dominated, and Mount found the key. The best ‘blue’ player of the season broke the ‘citizen’ defense with a pass between the lines that left Havertz alone. The German stumbled away from Ederson and warned the empty door of the checkmate.
He gave Guardiola 45 minutes to react. The Spanish coach had made a mistake by dispensing with the defensive midfielder, Fernandinho or Rodri, in pursuit of a more offensive team. It had a part to be the sixth team to overcome a final that came losing at half-time; the first to win his first Champions League coming back from Porto in 1987.
His calm, as the winner of three ‘Orejonas’, two as a coach and one as a player, contrasted with that of his team, where only one player had reached this final match before. Ilkay Gündogan, and did not play metal.
And on top of that, his best weapon on the pitch, his extension, was injured with a black eye after a collision with Rudiger. De Bruyne tearfully disappeared through the back door of the final. Hugging Guardiola and Lillo.
Nerves appeared. Chelsea withdrew weapons. A more mental game began to be played, harsher, more stopped. What a restless Tuchel wanted in the band who looked insistently at the minute hand and who touched the heart attack when Azpilicueta, perfect, denied a death pass to Gündogan. And that he ended up on his knees when Pulisic was able to kill the final. He crossed a heads-up too much against Ederson with 20 minutes remaining.
Chelsea was already behind with everything; the City, without ideas, throwing centers without sense, as if their system and Guardiola had been blocked when noticing the close look of the Champions.
The ‘Orejona’, the great objective of the sheikhs, was moving away and although Sergio Agüero entered, the magic of the meeting nine years ago against QPR was not repeated. Although there was a scare with a blocking by Christensen to Foden in the small area and with a shot from Mahrez brushing the square in the last minute.
But there was no miracle. It was the ‘Blues’ who surrendered to the field, with their second Champions in their pocket. It was City that left empty-handed and without the project completed. Guardiola is getting closer and closer, but he will have to keep looking for glory.