Chelsea 2-0 (3-1 on agg.) Real Madrid
So, for the second time in three years, there will be an all-English Champions League final.
Sure, there have been better Chelsea sides that have not even reached the competition showpiece. There have also been many better Real Madrid teams.
But, who knows, perhaps it is in the stars that Thomas Tuchel will lift the European crown, less than 12 months after he narrowly missed out with his former employer.
Chelsea were good value for this 3-1 aggregate success, ironically played against a stronger Madrid side than the one who knocked out English compatriots Liverpool in the quarter-finals.
So, it will be Tuchel versus Pep Guardiola’s Manchester City in Istanbul and another battle between billionaire-owned clubs.
With the greatest respect, neither would likely have reached the European showcase without the financial backing they have received over the past two decades.
After all, the genius that is Brian Clough and a club like Nottingham Forest (twice winners of the competition on a fraction of the budget) only comes along once in a generation.
However, make no mistake, both clubs deserve their place in Europe’s grand final.
Highlights of the game
Evenly poised after the first leg, there was just the one change for the hosts as Kai Havertz, who scored twice in the 2-0 win over Fulham on Saturday, was given the nod for Christian Pulisic.
Real suffered a blow with centre-back with Raphael Varane ruled out, as was fellow defender Dani Carvajal with Ferland Mendy and club captain Sergio Ramos coming in.
On a brighter note, former Chelsea favourite Eden Hazard was edging back to fitness and was handed a starting berth.
Twice a Premier League winner in a seven-season spell at Stamford Bridge, he would have received much acclaim on his return had fans been present.
Chelsea, who eased past Real’s city rivals Atlético in the round of 16, were left thankful for impressive goalkeeper Edouard Mendy, who twice denied Karim Benzema in the first half as the contest remained on a knife-edge, even though Timo Werner headed them in front after 28 minutes after Havertz had clipped the bar.
A first Champions League goal in open play for Chelsea and his first in Europe since September 2019, talk about perfect timing for the German to end a run of 17 appearances in the competition without one.
Into the second period and Real’s former Chelsea goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois saved from N’golo Kante and Havertz, who also headed against the bar, as the home side chased a second goal to calm the nerves.
Real, themselves chasing progression to set up Zinedine Zidane’s fourth tournament summit in charge of the club, only needed an away goal to be level on aggregate but, as the match wore on, all the Champions League 2021 highlights were belonging to those in blue.
Their place in the final was assured four minutes from time when sub Pulisic found youngster Mason Mount – who must only have dreamed of such a moment when on loan at Derby this time two years ago – and he netted the second.
And so Chelsea, the side which ended City’s quadruple attempt last month, now stand in the way of the European title their opponents on May 29 crave so much.
The manager of Chelsea’s women’s team admitted this week she was dreaming of a Champions League double for both the club’s senior teams.
Dreams can come true.
But can Chelsea defy the pundits and the SBOTOP Champions League 2021 betting odds? We won’t have to wait too much longer to find out!
This was the fifth-ever meeting between Chelsea and Real Madrid and the west Londoners remain unbeaten.
Chelsea have progressed from six of their past eight knockout ties in the Champions League when avoiding defeat away from home in the first leg.
Tuchel is the first manager to reach the European Cup/Champions League final in consecutive years.
He has only lost four of his 19 home games as a manager in the Champions League (won 13, drawn two), with his sides scoring 50 goals across these fixtures.
He is also unbeaten as a head coach against Spanish clubs (won four, drawn four).
Mendy has kept eight Champions League clean sheets this season, the most ever by a goalkeeper for an English club in a single season.
Chelsea have reached their third Champions League final, also doing so in 2008 and 2012. Only Manchester United and Liverpool (four each) have reached more among English teams.
Chelsea’s European competition semi-final record is won seven, lost seven.
There’s an irony that Chelsea travel to Manchester City in their next league encounter.
They are at Eastlands on Saturday (May 8) – a match in which City could clinch the Premier League title. It will be absolutely no barometer for what will follow later in the month.
They then entertain Arsenal on May 12, three days before contesting the 2021 FA Cup Final with Leicester City.
Real have four league games remaining as they try and retain La Liga, beginning with a big home match with Sevilla on Sunday evening (May 9).
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