On May 29th, 2021, in the Estadio Do Dragao in Porto, Manchester City and Chelsea fought for 100 minutes, for the glorious Champions League trophy. Here’s what happened.
The line-ups were as follows, left to right:
Manchester City (4-3-3): Ederson in goal, a back four defensive line of Zinchenko, Dias, Stones, and Walker, with a midfield trio of Foden, Gundogan, and Bernardo Silva, and a front three of Sterling, De Bruyne, and Mahrez. A very offensive formation with no true striker and 2 wingers (Foden and Silva) in midfield, so while it was technically a 4-3-3, it played closer to a 4-2-4 formation.
Chelsea (5-2-2 / 3-5-2): Edouard Medny in goal, a back 3 of Rudiger, Thiago Silva, and Azpilicueta, a pair of fullbacks in Ben Chilwell and Reece James, with a defensive midfield duo of Jorginho and Kante, an attacking midfield duo of Mount and Havertz, and their lone striker in Timo Werner.
Manchester City started with the ball and right from the kickoff went on the offensive. Forward Kevin De Bruyne passed a through ball to midfielder Phil Foden on the left wing, who missed the first real chance of the game. In the 8th minute, forward Raheem Sterling of Man City got a shot at the bottom left corner, but got parried by Chelsea goalkeeper Edouard Mendy. This was City’s only shot on goal in the whole game. In the 14th minute, Chelsea striker Timo Werner missed two on-goal shots, with one saved by Ederson and the second deflected as it left his foot. Midfielder Phil Foden and the aforementioned Sterling got a pair of deflected shots in the 27th and 30th minute by Chelsea defender Antonio Rudiger. These were Man City’s only real chances since that shot on goal. In the 38th minute, Chelsea defender Thiago Silva went down with a groin injury after hyperextending his leg to tackle the ball and was replaced by Andreas Christensen. In the 42nd minute, Mendy cleared the ball to fullback Ben Chilwell, who played it off to midfielder Mason Mount, who followed that with a through ball to fellow midfielder Kai Havertz in the space before the box. Manchester City goalkeeper Ederson slides out too early and misses the ball, clipping Havertz’s heel– but he regains his balance, chases the ball down, and kicks it into an open net. Chelsea had scored the first goal of the Champions League final, and took the lead 1-0 at the half.
In the 55th minute, De Bruyne and Rudiger collided with each other. De Bruyne stayed down for 3 minutes before being subbed out with a black eye and potential concussion, replaced by Gabriel Jesus. In the 66th minute, Christian Pulisic came on for Werner, becoming the first American to play in a Champions League final. In the 72nd minute, Havertz was approaching the goal and passed a light touch to Pulisic, who tried to lob it past Ederson, but the ball was just slightly wide. In the 76th minute, forward Sergio Aguero came on for Sterling to play his last minutes of his Manchester City career before heading to FC Barcelona. In the 90th minute, Manchester City had a cross on goal which went unchecked by the Chelsea defense until forward Riyad Mahrez tipped off Rudiger and Christensen, who slid in to clear it. In the 96th minute, Manchester City had a through ball into Mahrez, who shot a volley on goal that went inches above the top right corner. That was the last chance City had to equalize and send the game into extra time. The game ended 1-0, with Chelsea taking home their 2nd Champions League Trophy.
N’golo Kante won man of the match, with three chance-breaking tackle (a tackle that occurs when a player is nearing the penalty box near the goal), an 85% pass completion rate, 11 duels (or challenges to the player with the ball) won, one interception, 2 clearances (kicking the ball away from your own penalty box), and one chance created (a key pass to a player moving towards the opposing side of the field). Defender Reece James also played exceptionally well, completely nullifying the threat of Raheem Sterling on the left wing, and not letting him get a single successful dribble or shot on goal. Overall, a great performance for Chelsea, who will now play Europa League winners Villarreal in the European Super Cup.
This was an incredible turnaround in their season, the obvious difference being the change in manager from Frank Lampard to Thomas Tuchel. When Tuchel took over Chelsea were almost mid-table in the Premier League, but he quickly turned the tide. He completely solidified the defense and led Chelsea to an FA Cup Final victory and top 4 finish, as well as this incredible achievement. Beating Real Madrid over two legs and then Manchester City in the final is a tall task. Manchester City go home in disappointment in the club’s first-ever Champions League final. They did very well to reach this point but will be devastated to not have finished the job, their main goal for this season. They still had a very good season, easily winning the Premier League title and the Carabao Cup for the fourth consecutive season. It was odd to see manager Pep Guardiola opt not to play a holding midfielder, as this was the first game in the whole season that neither Rodri nor Fernandinho got the start. Manchester City also played without a true striker, and even though they had been doing that successfully for the majority of this season, in a game like this they could have used a player like Sergio Aguero or Gabriel Jesus in significant minutes to unlock the Chelsea defense. Some overthinking on Guardiola’s part may have cost his team in this one. They will try again for next year, with their squad being more than good enough to challenge for the title once again. And there we have it, the glorious 2020/2021 football season has come to an end. Chelsea are victorious and will play Champions League football next season. As for our prediction, we had Bayern as champions but as we saw, the unbeaten were defeated and a new king was crowned.