A year after suffering the sting of defeat in the UEFA Champions League final, Thomas Tuchel erased that pain by leading Chelsea to a triumph few could have envisioned when the year began.
Five months after replacing Frank Lampard as Chelsea manager, and a year after losing the Champions League final with Paris Saint-Germain, Tuchel pulled the strings on a masterful performance as the Blues stifled and outplayed Manchester City on the way to a 1-0 victory in Porto.
Kai Havertz provided the winner just before halftime when he raced in on a perfect pass from Mason Mount and beat Ederson to the ball before slotting home the first Champions League goal of his career.
Havertz’s goal swung the momentum of the match completely in Chelsea’s favor after a back-and-forth first half that saw Brazilian defender Thiago Silva forced out of the match with an injury in the 39th minute.
Silva’s injury looked like it might swing the match in City’s favor, but Kavertz struck with the opening goal just three minutes later.
Manchester City went into halftime trailing deservedly after mustering few chances against a Chelsea side that actually produced the better of the chances in the first half despite City’s deployment of an attack-heavy starting lineup that featured no defensive midfielder and a midfield of Ilkay Gundogan, Bernardo Silva and Phil Foden.
The second half saw more attacking effort from the Citizens, but Chelsea’s defense avoided mistakes and N’Golo Kante’s presence in the middle helped the Blues control the middle of the field.
Manchester City’s chances for a comeback suffered a big blow in the 57th minute when Kevin Debruyne was forced out of the match after a crushing collision with Antonio Rudiger. Pep Guardiola inserted Gabriel Jesus for DeBruyne, leaving City without its most dangerous playmaker.
American fans were treated to some history in the 66th minute when Christian Pulisic entered for Chelsea, becoming the first U.S. Men’s National Team player to play in a UEFA Champions League final.
Pulisic nearly doubled Chelsea lead just five minutes after coming on, but saw his chance go wide of the goal in the 72nd minute.
Manchester City’s attacking struggles continued for the rest of the match, with the most promising chance coming in the final moments, with Riyad Mahrez hitting a hopeful long-range shot that floated a foot over the goal frame.
Guardiola inserted long-time Manchester City star Sergio Aguero in 77th minute hoping he could conjured up some late-game magic, but Aguero’s last appearance for the Citizens would have no fairytale ending as he was left to wipe away tears as the final whistle blew to crown Chelsea as Champions League winners for the first time in nine years.
The victory was sweet vindication for Tuchel, was fired as PSG manager in December, just four months after leading the French giants to the 2020 Champions League final.