Nine years after beating Bayern Munich in Germany and 13 years since his Moscow misery in a defeat on penalties to Man United, Roman Abramovich has a Champions League final to look forward to again after Chelsea beat Real Madrid.
A European campaign that had looked unpromising under Frank Lampard could now conclude with glory after an all-English final against Premier League leaders Manchester City, Chelsea’s spot sealed by a confident 2-0 win against 13-time winners Madrid at Stamford Bridge on Wednesday.
For a man whose conviction and success in front of goal has frequently been questioned during his first season at the club, Timo Werner could not have asked for more of a gift than the goal with which he put his side ahead after 28 minutes, the rebound from Kai Havertz’s chip onto the crossbar falling to him to nod in from point-blank range to make it 2-1 on aggregate.
“I had to wait a long time for the ball coming down,” the Germany forward admitted to BT Sport afterwards. “It felt like hours waiting for the ball to come… it was an easy goal for me.
“One thing you can say to us today is that we could have decided the game earlier in the second half but, in the end, it’s not easy to play against Real Madrid and we did it very, very well.”
Goalkeeper Edouard Mendy was on inspired form, tipping a fierce strike and powerful header from hitman Karim Benzema away in a pair of fine first-half saves.
The danger was almost all from Chelsea in the second half, yet the wastefulness Werner alluded to felt as if it might haunt them after Havertz and N’Golo Kante – the star man again, repeating his majestic showing in Spain – both saw shots saved by former Blues goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois when they were through on goal.
Any nerves were finally calmed when Mason Mount became the first English goalscorer in a UEFA Champions League semi-final since Wayne Rooney more than ten years ago, sweeping in the second with five minutes remaining after American prodigy Christian Pulisic had created space to fire in a cross down the right.
“Real Madrid can turn nothing into goals, so you’re always on the edge,” said Thomas Tuchel, the coach brought in by Abramovich in January in a ruthless replacement of Frank Lampard that has turned out to be inspired.
“To hang in there, even if you have big chances that you miss and you miss again, to never lose the concentration, focus and positive energy on the pitch – it was a huge performance and well deserved.”
“We could have scored so much earlier and more to be safe, but it’s no time for criticism now. It’s a fantastic achievement; big congratulations to the team.”
Chelsea have been also-rans in Europe in recent seasons and were crushed 7-1 by reigning champions Bayern Munich last year. They are now 90 minutes from their third Champions League trophy against Abramovich, having already beaten City under Tuchel in a 1-0 FA Cup semi-final win this season.
Werner praised Tuchel for allowing his squad to enjoy home comforts rather than endure a hotel stay the night before beating Madrid.
“I know the managers love everybody to go to a hotel before a game because they have everybody together,” he smiled.
“For us players, it’s the best thing when you can sleep at home in your bed – when you are around your family, your normal home. It has worked for [recent] games, it worked today and I think it’s a good thing that the manager decided to do it.”
Tuchel made the final with Paris Saint-Germain next year. When it was put to him that reaching the showpiece again was a symbol of his abilities as a coach, he laughed: “Or not, because it’s not the same club.”
“I’m very, very happy that we’ve achieved this,” he said. “I’m very grateful to have the opportunity to live my life in football. To have this passion as a profession, I’m more than grateful – and to do it on this level, to coach a team like this and to reach the final for a second time, I’m very thankful.”
Chelsea are scheduled to face City in the showdown in Istanbul on May 29.
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