Chelsea defeated Mancherster City in Saturday’s all-English final to capture the UEFA Champions League. Here’s three things we learned.
The European club season came to an official close Saturday after Chelsea defeated Manchester City 1-0 in the all-English Champions League final to be crowned the continent’s top team. It marked the second Champions League title for Chelsea since their first back in 2012.
A tense affair given the weeks-long hype, the game at Porto’s Estadio do Dragao had plenty of thrills, chills and excitement as the crowd — as well as millions around the globe — watched two of Europe’s best teams.
The game was won thanks to a breakaway goal by Kai Havertz just three minutes before the end of the first half. It was Chelsea’s defense (more on them later) that swatted away Man City’s feeble attempt at trying to tie the score.
With another Champions League’s final in the history books, here are three things we learned.
1. Coaching makes the difference
Managers are frequently given the blame when their team loses and not the credit when they win. In the case of Thomas Tuchel, he deserves a big chunk of the credit for keeping his team focused throughout this tough season.
After helping Paris Saint-Germain reach last year’s final (one the French side lost to Bayern Munich), Tuchel took over at Chelsea in midseason and turned the team around big time over the last four months.
Utilizing a 3-4-2-1 formation, Tuchel emphasized strong defending and a solid midfield to carry the London club to ultimate success in Europe after a fourth-place finish in the Premier League. Tuchel totally out-coached Man City’s Pep Guardiola, who once again failed to get his side the Champions League.
2. Defending wins the day
Chelsea conceded just four goals this season in the Champions League. The Blues showed once again how their backline was one of the key ingredients to success in this competition.
Chelsea are a team that didn’t feature a strong attack for much of the season, something they made up for with a backline that was hard to beat. Defenders such as captain Cesar Azpilicueta, Thiago Silva and Antonio Rudiger proved to be a winning combination against Man City.
Supporting the backline were midfielders like Jorginho, whose work rate made the difference throughout the season and in the final.
1. An American makes history
For the first time, two Americans appeared on the game-day roster in a Champions League final. The game featured Chelsea striker Christian Pulisic and Man City backup goalie Zack Steffen.
Only Pulisic saw action, coming on as a second-half sub in the 66th minute and almost scoring a second goal for his side moments after he entered the pitch.
The 22-year-old striker is the record-holder for career appearances (with 35) for an American in the Champions League. He recorded two goals and two assists in nine appearances in the tournament this season. Pulisic has now added to those stats by winning the club soccer’s ultimate prize.