Chelsea turned a season of turmoil into the last word triumph as Kai Havertz’s ice-cool finish sunk Manchester City 1-0 to swipe Champions League glory in Porto.
Mason Mount’s inch-perfect assist stunned domestic double-winners City at the Estadio do Dragao, as Chelsea claimed their second Champions League title to etch boss Thomas Tuchel’s name into the Stamford Bridge annals.
Kevin De Bruyne suffered a facial injury on a wretched night for the stellar Belgium star, who is going to be an instantaneous injury doubt for the European Championships.
Pep Guardiola fielded a surprise pivotless midfield during a bid to find out Tuchel and therefore the Blues, but the move backfired and City paid the toughest price.
When Chelsea paid Bayer Leverkusen £70million for Havertz last summer eyebrows were raised in some quarters, but Chelsea was convinced of the 21-year-old’s pure talent.
And now the fashionable forward has ended a testing campaign that included a battle with Covid-19 with a goal of the utmost quality – on the very best stage and at the right time.
In just 124 days Tuchel has transformed Frank Lampard’s muddled men into mean tactical machines – and champions of Europe.
Guardiola has spent five years honing City for European dominance, but that frustrating wait goes on.
The former Barcelona and Bayern Munich boss last won the Champions League in 2011, the year before Chelsea’s first European triumph.
Guardiola will keep grinding, but Tuchel has quickly built up something of an Indian sign away City’s Catalan coach.
Chelsea’s third convert City in six weeks ranks most highly but also cements Tuchel’s arrival as a real tactical master.
The 47-year-old arrived from Paris St Germain in January with a fiery reputation but has reinvented himself as a taskmaster with a joyful spirit and a bent to tease the simplest from his players.
Tuchel insisted he didn’t fear the brevity of his 18-month contract on his arrival at Chelsea, admitting even a five-year deal wouldn’t save his skin should he underperform.
Such candid talk – always delivered with a reassuring smile – has proved a breath of fresh air for Chelsea’s entire set-up, from boardroom else room.
Just as in Munich nine years ago, so now Chelsea had to battle for Champions League glory the hard way.
For that breakthrough triumph in 2012, Andre Villas-Boas had to fall on his sword before Roberto Di Matteo could oversee a shocking penalties victory over Bayern Munich.
Jump forward about a decade, and again the Blues are champions of Europe – in another season where two men have taken the Stamford Bridge helm.
Former boss Lampard will sit back somewhere with a wry smile at tonight’s events, doubtless delighted for his club – but also surely with regrets to not be within the dugout.
The 41-year-old was a central character therein seminal 2012 victory and had started this season as a Chelsea boss wanting to build an enduring managerial legacy.
Lampard did not blend the £220million-worth of summer transfer talent though and paid together with his job in January.
And so in came Tuchel, the demanding and discerning former Paris St Germain boss, on a transparent brief to get immediate results.
The spectacular transformation has owed the maximum amount to sharp tactical acumen as shrewd people management.
Any fears of a decent affair were immediately dispelled at the highest of the night.
Timo Werner missed his first of two sitters when Havertz crop to him within the area, while Ben Chilwell had to conjure a full-stretch clearance at the opposite end.
Werner’s second miss was almost a much bigger let-off for City than the primary, because the German striker overran Havertz’s inside the ball, muddled up his feet, and scuffed a low-power effort for a simple Ederson save.
Toni Rudiger achieved a shocking block on Phil Foden, and Riyad Mahrez missed Kyle Walker’s cutback entirely.
Just when the half looked to peter out goalless though, Mount spun on the ball on the left and delivered the killer long-range through-ball for Havertz.
Werner raced bent the left to make the space, Havertz ghosted through and nicked the ball round the fast-advancing Ederson – before tapping into the empty net.
Chelsea had lost influential center-back Thiago Silva to a groin injury just past the half-hour, but Andreas Christensen settled quickly. and therefore the Blues were good value for his or her 1-0 half-time lead.
Guardiola resisted the temptation to form any half-time changes, and while City pushed higher upfield N’Golo Kante produced a shocking cover tackle on an increasingly frustrated De Bruyne.
The Belgium star’s night went from bad to much, much worse moments later when colliding with Rudiger. After lengthy treatment, the ex-Chelsea playmaker trudged off in tears, with a possible broken cheekbone.
Guardiola eventually gave up the ghost on his pivot-free midfield just past the hour, with Fernandinho replacing Bernardo Silva.
Christian Pulisic had a golden chance to cement Chelsea’s advantage when played in by Havertz, only to scythe his dinked effort well wide.
Guardiola’s men refused to offer up though, cajoling again and again, and moving the ball in their neat patterns.
An age-long seven minutes of added time left Chelsea players and fans biting nails alike, and Mahrez so nearly equalized with a snapshot at the very, very last.
But the ball sailed just wide, and Chelsea were champions of Europe again.