Thomas Tuchel turns around Chelsea’s world in 100 days
Sacked by Paris Saint-Germain on Christmas Eve, Thomas Tuchel is going back to the Champions League final for a second consecutive season after his rejuvenated Chelsea cruised past Real Madrid.
With a 2-0 win in their semi-final, second leg yesterday morning (Singapore time), the Blues sealed a 3-1 aggregate win to set up an all-English final against Manchester City in Istanbul on May 29.
City's 4-1 victory against PSG over two legs in the other semi-final means Tuchel won't get the chance for revenge, but his reputation as one of Europe's top coaches has been restored, 100 days into his new role.
Chelsea have lost just two of his 24 games in charge to also move into pole position to qualify for next season's Champions League via a top-four finish in the English Premier League.
They are still in contention for a double, with an FA Cup final against Leicester City to come on May 16.
"When we started with the manager, we were ninth in the league and now we reach everything - on the road to the top four, we can win the Champions League and the FA Cup," said Timo Werner, who opened the scoring at Stamford Bridge.
The turnaround in the Blues' season has been built on a solid foundation.
For the 18th time under Tuchel, Chelsea kept a clean sheet with Real completely nullified, bar one moment of magic from Karim Benzema midway through the first half that drew a fine save from Edouard Mendy.
As Real's old guard - the staple of four Champions League wins - were swept aside, the new pieces of Chelsea's overhaul all clicked into place.
After just three goals for club and country this year, Werner could have been discouraged when, for once, a clinical finish from Ben Chilwell's cross was ruled out for offside.
Instead, Kai Havertz's ingenuity provided Werner with another chance he could not miss as he headed into an unguarded net after his teammate's lob over Thibaut Courtois came back off the bar.
For all the money spent by Roman Abramovich, it was an academy graduate - Mason Mount - who delivered the knockout blow by tapping in their second goal five minutes from the final whistle.
Real coach Zinedine Zidane defended his tactical decisions as the 13-time holders missed out on what would have been a fifth final in eight seasons.
He fielded the same 3-5-2 formation as in the first leg, but injuries to Dani Carvajal and Raphael Varane led him to field forward Vinicius Jr in the unfamiliar position of wing-back.
Zidane also picked captain Sergio Ramos and Eden Hazard despite the pair only just returning from injury.
"Chelsea put in a great performance and you have to congratulate them," he said.
As Zidane missed an opportunity to win his fourth Champions League final as a manager, Tuchel will be hoping that he is second-time lucky.
"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."- AFP, REUTERS