PORTO, Portugal — As Thomas Tuchel and Chelsea celebrated, Pep Guardiola walked straight previous the Champions League trophy with out giving it a single look. Manchester Metropolis have been outplayed in a 1-0 Champions League closing defeat, and this was the closest Guardiola would get to touching the European Cup since he final gained it 10 years in the past.
Guardiola would possibly as nicely have been 1,000,000 miles away as, runners-up medal in hand, the Metropolis supervisor stored his head down. It was in all probability via a combination of anger and exasperation, however there was additionally prone to be a heavy dose of remorse, given how — not for the primary time — he overthought his line-up and ways, when simplicity would have been smart.
“I did what I assumed was the most effective choice [with my selection],” Guardiola stated after the sport.
However this was additional proof that, teaching genius although he undoubtedly is, the two-time Champions League winner has a behavior of selecting the mistaken time and the mistaken place to experiment.
As a substitute, it was Tuchel who took the spoils, having stored his method easy and caught to tried and examined strategies. Within the stadium the place Guardiola’s outdated rival Jose Mourinho constructed his first Champions League-winning workforce with FC Porto, Chelsea used a counterattacking sport, primarily based on fast breaks from defensive positions, to land a knockout blow on Metropolis for the third time in lower than two months.
Kai Havertz‘s Forty second-minute objective, which got here when the Chelsea club-record £72 million ($102.2 million) signing exploited a gaping gap within the Metropolis defence earlier than rounding goalkeeper Ederson to attain, was sufficient to ship the European Cup to Stamford Bridge for the second time and depart Metropolis nonetheless ready for his or her first triumph.
Champions of England for the third time in 4 seasons, Metropolis have been sturdy favourites to win in Portugal regardless of having suffered current Premier League and FA Cup defeats in opposition to Chelsea. However a flaw resurfaced that has beset Guardiola ever since he was coach of Lionel Messi, Xavi & Co. at Barcelona: Win or bust.
Guardiola’s ways have been designed for Metropolis to attain early then permit their possession sport to take management and move Chelsea into submission. However simply as in previous Champions League exits in opposition to Monaco, Liverpool and Lyon, there have been too many adjustments, each by way of personnel and method, which left gamers unsure what to do.
For under the second time this season, Metropolis performed with no defensive midfielder; Fernandinho and Rodri have been each named as substitutes, which meant Ilkay Gundogan, who has spent nearly all of this season in an attacking midfield position, was chosen to fill the void in entrance of the again 4.
Guardiola would later say that “Ilkay has performed that position many instances earlier than,” including “I picked a workforce to win the sport.” However the former Borussia Dortmund participant was merely overrun by Chelsea’s energetic attackers: Havertz, Mason Mount and Timo Werner.
With centre-forwards Sergio Aguero and Gabriel Jesus additionally on the bench, Guardiola chosen the out-of-form Bernardo Silva and Raheem Sterling. Bernardo’s choice was designed to provide Metropolis a further artistic participant to maintain Chelsea penned in, however the Portuguese midfielder was nameless earlier than being substituted within the second half.
The dearth of impression may very well be stated of Sterling, whose choice on the left took Phil Foden away from the place through which he has been so efficient in current weeks. Sterling too didn’t full the sport.
Maybe most damaging of all, although, was Guardiola’s choice to deploy Kevin De Bruyne as a false 9, which took Metropolis’s finest participant out of his favoured midfield position and left him wanting confused as to the place precisely he was imagined to play. A heavy collision with Antonio Rudiger on the hour pressured De Bruyne off.
With only one shot heading in the right direction, Metropolis have been unrecognizable as Chelsea pressed, harried and disrupted. Even the loss to harm of Thiago Silva earlier than half-time was no setback; each one in every of Tuchel’s gamers gave at the very least an 8/10 efficiency, with the immense N’Golo Kante dominating the sport and deservedly profitable the person of the match award.
Whereas Tuchel has gained the Champions League inside 4 months of changing Frank Lampard at Stamford Bridge, the wait goes on for Metropolis and Guardiola, who was employed to be the difference-maker on this competitors however has change into vulnerable to tripping himself up on the mistaken second.
Perhaps this simply wasn’t imply to be Metropolis’s 12 months. In any case, they have been initially banned from this season’s competitors, and subsequent, having been discovered responsible of breaking Monetary Honest Play guidelines by UEFA. Having efficiently overturned that penalty on attraction, profitable the European Cup may need been too nice a plot twist.
And they are going to be again. Having invested nearly £2 billion on gamers since shopping for the membership in 2008, Metropolis proprietor Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed al Nahyan, who didn’t attend this closing, will proceed to fund the workforce till, and after, they lastly win the Champions League.
“It was the primary time we have been at this stage,” Guardiola stated. “Hopefully, we will probably be right here once more sooner or later.”
However because the overwhelmed Metropolis boss walked previous the trophy on the finish of this sport, Sir Alex Ferguson’s well-known half-time speech through the 1999 closing got here to thoughts.
“On the finish of this sport, the European Cup will probably be solely six toes away from you, and you may not even in a position to contact it if we lose,” Ferguson stated. “And for a lot of of you, that would be the closest you’ll ever get.”
Manchester United famously recovered from a objective all the way down to beat Bayern Munich that night time in Barcelona and declare a treble that, at one level this season, Metropolis regarded set to assert.
As a substitute, Tuchel and Chelsea tripped them up on a number of events, leaving the sense that, if Guardiola continues to permit his judgement to be clouded on the largest stage, it is perhaps one in every of his successors who lastly enjoys the feeling of bringing the trophy again to the Etihad Stadium.