Chelsea Sign Goalkeeper Bettinelli From Fulham

Marcus Bettinelli (Photo: chelseafc.com)

 

 

 

Chelsea have signed goalkeeper Marcus Bettinelli on a free transfer, the Premier League club announced Wednesday.

The 29-year-old left nearby west London side Fulham at the end of last season after making more than 100 appearances in over a decade with the Cottagers.

Bettinelli has now agreed on a two-year deal at Stamford Bridge where he will compete for the goalkeeping position with Edouard Mendy and Kepa Arrizabalaga.

“It’s always been a special club. I know the area very well so it’s been a dream of mine to come over to this side and it’s finally happened,” former England Under-21 international Betinelli told Chelsea’s website.

“There were some talks a few years ago when I was a bit younger and for whatever reason that didn’t come about but I’m here now,” added Bettinelli, whose arrival at Chelsea follows the departure of Argentinian goalkeeper Willy Caballero.

Tuchel Set For New Deal And Hungry For More After Chelsea Champions League Triumph

File: Glyn KIRK / AFP

 

While Manchester City had been building towards what they thought was their moment in the Champions League for five years under Pep Guardiola, Chelsea showed with their victory in Saturday’s final in Porto what can be achieved in just four months.

That is how long has elapsed since Thomas Tuchel became coach, replacing Frank Lampard with Chelsea ninth in the Premier League.

The German oversaw an immediate transformation in their fortunes, dragging them into the top four, taking them to the FA Cup final which they lost to Leicester City, and now winning the Champions League.

They have beaten Guardiola’s City for the third time in six weeks thanks to Kai Havertz’s goal, and they are champions of Europe for the second time.

Tuchel is set to reap the rewards with a handsome new contract, although whether he will be allowed to put down roots in west London remains to be seen given how managerial cycles tend to go at Stamford Bridge.

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Once again a mid-season managerial sacking has worked out perfectly for Chelsea, whose 2012 Champions League triumph came following the decision to sack Andre Villas-Boas and appoint Roberto Di Matteo.

This time Chelsea have struck gold with Tuchel, but the 47-year-old would not have been able to deliver such success without the huge investment in players that came before his arrival, as well as some of the outstanding young talents who were already thriving under Lampard.

– Room for improvement –

Five of Chelsea’s line-up at the Estadio do Dragao were signed at the start of the season, including match-winner Havertz, the 71 million-pound ($100m) recruit from Bayer Leverkusen. There was also Reece James and Mason Mount, youth academy graduates who are in England’s squad for Euro 2020.

This is a team that has already conquered Europe but that appears to be just at the start of its adventure together.

“We have a strong bond, a strong group who can really defend and play and have answers on all questions in the game,” Tuchel said on Saturday.

“Once the celebrations are over and once we digest this experience, it is the moment to grow, to evolve, to learn from it and become better.”

There is huge room for improvement in the Premier League after Chelsea finished 19 points behind champions City, and a proper domestic title challenge will be expected now.

“When you play for a club like Chelsea you are always thinking in the future,” said veteran skipper Cesar Azpilicueta.

Tuchel knows full well that past success counts for little — Di Matteo was gone within six months of that 2012 victory and Tuchel himself was sacked by Paris Saint-Germain last December despite leading them to their first ever final last season.

– ‘I want the next one’ –

“When we won the Cup in Dortmund I did not arrive at the next training with less hunger, less desire or ambition,” he said.

“Of course now is the time to celebrate for some days, to enjoy and let it sink in, for one or two weeks, to talk about it and reflect on it, but then it does surprisingly not a lot to you.

“I think it’s good because nobody wants to rest. I want the next one, the next title. I want to be a part of it and I demand to be a part of it and this is what comes next.”

He was initially handed just an 18-month contract but has earned an extended deal after what he has achieved in such a short time.

“I am not even 100 percent sure, but maybe I already have a new contract now with that win. My manager said something about that but I didn’t know so let’s check this first,” he told reporters with a smile.

“My desire is to go for more victories, to grow as a coach and to push the group on the first day of next season to the limit.”

The next Premier League campaign starts on August 14, but Chelsea will play three days before that against Villarreal with an opportunity for another trophy in the UEFA Super Cup.

AFP

Chelsea Shatter Dream Of Guardiola’s Man City To Win Champions League Final

Chelsea's players celebrate with the trophy after winning the UEFA Champions League final football match at the Dragao stadium in Porto on May 29, 2021. PIERRE-PHILIPPE MARCOU / POOL / AFP
Chelsea’s players celebrate with the trophy after winning the UEFA Champions League final football match at the Dragao stadium in Porto on May 29, 2021.
PIERRE-PHILIPPE MARCOU / POOL / AFP

 

Chelsea won the Champions League for the second time as a Kai Havertz goal secured a tense 1-0 victory over Manchester City in Saturday’s final in Porto, shattering Pep Guardiola’s dream of lifting the trophy for the third time, a decade on from his last triumph.

Havertz rounded Ederson to score three minutes before half-time at the Estadio do Dragao and the Chelsea players ran to the far end of the pitch to celebrate with the German.

Coach Thomas Tuchel, full of energy on the touchline just like his opposite number, punched the air in celebration, and later jumped with joy on the pitch after Chelsea held on for victory in the second half as City lost distraught skipper Kevin De Bruyne to injury.

The London club may have finished fourth in the Premier League, a huge 19 points behind the champions City, but this, remarkably, was their third win over Guardiola’s side in six weeks.

They shattered City’s hopes of a domestic treble when they triumphed in the FA Cup semi-finals in April and then delayed their title celebrations with victory in Manchester.

Now, in a final watched by a limited crowd of just over 14,000 fans who created a raucous atmosphere, they have denied City the first Champions League crown they and Guardiola so crave.

Abramovich’s second European Cup

City have had to wait 13 years since being taken over by Abu Dhabi’s Sheikh Mansour just to get to the Champions League final.

They are now the seventh consecutive team to lose in their first appearance at this stage. The same misfortune befell Qatar-owned Paris Saint-Germain last year as well as Tottenham Hotspur when they were beaten by Liverpool in the last all-English final in 2019.

Chelsea also lost when they first got to the final, succumbing on penalties against Manchester United in Moscow in 2008.

Chelsea's German defender Antonio Ruediger lifts the Champions League trophy during the UEFA Champions League final football match between Manchester City and Chelsea at the Dragao stadium in Porto on May 29, 2021. Manu Fernandez / POOL / AFP
Chelsea’s German defender Antonio Ruediger lifts the Champions League trophy during the UEFA Champions League final football match between Manchester City and Chelsea at the Dragao stadium in Porto on May 29, 2021. Manu Fernandez / POOL / AFP

 

They overcame the final hurdle by beating Bayern Munich, also in a shoot-out, in 2012 and now they have their second European Cup to move level with Juventus, Benfica and Porto as well as another English side, Nottingham Forest.

Their transformation into one of Europe’s super clubs has been down to the riches of Roman Abramovich, their Russian oligarch owner who was in attendance at the game in Portugal.

Chelsea have been transformed since the appointment as coach in January of Tuchel, but City were still the favourites off the back of their third Premier League title triumph in four seasons.

Feeding off the energy of the crowd in a stadium that Portuguese authorities had allowed to be filled to a third of its capacity — all fans required negative Covid-19 tests to gain entry — both teams played with a level of intensity rarely seen in the last year of football in empty grounds.

Havertz’s marquee moment

City pressed high but struggled to trouble Edouard Mendy in the Chelsea goal, while at the other end Timo Werner should have done better than shoot straight at Ederson in the 14th minute.

Chelsea then suffered an injury blow as an emotional Thiago Silva was forced off hurt, Andreas Christensen taking the Brazilian’s place in central defence.

helsea's German midfielder Kai Havertz (L) scores a goal past Manchester City's Brazilian goalkeeper Ederson during the UEFA Champions League final football match between Manchester City and Chelsea FC at the Dragao stadium in Porto on May 29, 2021. Jose Coelho / POOL / AFP
helsea’s German midfielder Kai Havertz (L) scores a goal past Manchester City’s Brazilian goalkeeper Ederson during the UEFA Champions League final football match between Manchester City and Chelsea FC at the Dragao stadium in Porto on May 29, 2021.
Jose Coelho / POOL / AFP

 

Yet it was they who opened the scoring in the 42nd minute, Mason Mount’s ball splitting the City defence with John Stones out of position, allowing Havertz — their marquee 71 million-pound ($100m) signing last summer — to go around the lunging Ederson and convert into an empty net.

City now needed to break down a Chelsea defence that has been exceptional since Tuchel came in.

But they lost De Bruyne just before the hour mark, the brilliant Belgian taken out in a collision with Antonio Ruediger that appeared to leave him concussed.

He came off in tears, and Guardiola instead turned to Sergio Aguero for the latter stages, but there was to be no glorious send-off as a City player for the Argentine, even if a Riyad Mahrez shot sailed just over in the sixth minute of injury time.

There was also no third European Cup for Guardiola, who remains one adrift of the record for the coaches with most wins in the competition, held jointly by Bob Paisley, Carlo Ancelotti and Zinedine Zidane.

AFP

Sterling Starts Champions League Final As Guardiola Goes On The Offensive

The trophy is carried pitch side ahead of the UEFA Champions League final football match between Manchester City and Chelsea at the Dragao stadium in Porto on May 29, 2021. SUSANA VERA / POOL / AFP
The trophy is carried pitch side ahead of the UEFA Champions League final football match between Manchester City and Chelsea at the Dragao stadium in Porto on May 29, 2021. SUSANA VERA / POOL / AFP

 

Manchester City boss Pep Guardiola made the bold call to drop both his recognised holding midfielders for Saturday’s Champions League final against Chelsea.

Raheem Sterling returns to the City starting line-up with Ilkay Gundogan forced into a deeper role in midfield in the absence of Fernandinho and Rodrigo.

Sterling has been left on the bench by Guardiola for all four quarter-final and semi-final ties as City have reached the final for the first time in their history.

But the England international’s return at the expense of captain Fernandinho is the only change from the team that beat Paris Saint-Germain in the semi-final second leg.

City’s all-time record goalscorer Sergio Aguero also starts on the bench in his final game for the club.

Chelsea are boosted by the return of N’Golo Kante in midfield and Edouard Mendy’s recovery from a rib injury that forced him off at half-time of last weekend’s 2-1 defeat to Aston Villa.

Thomas Tuchel keeps faith with Timo Werner up front despite his wastefulness in front of goal during his first season at Stamford Bridge.

Kai Havertz starts up front alongside his German international teammate Werner.

Manchester City (4-3-3)

Ederson; Kyle Walker, Ruben Dias, John Stones, Oleksandr Zinchenko; Ilkay Gundogan, Kevin De Bruyne (capt), Bernardo Silva; Riyad Mahrez, Phil Foden, Raheem Sterling

Coach: Pep Guardiola (ESP)

Chelsea (3-4-1-2)

Edouard Mendy; Reece James, Thiago Silva, Antonio Rudiger; Cesar Azpilicueta (capt), N’Golo Kante, Jorginho, Ben Chilwell; Mason Mount; Timo Werner, Kai Havertz

Coach: Thomas Tuchel (GER)

Referee: Antonio Mateu Lahoz (ESP)

Tuchel’s Chelsea Can Take ‘Confidence’ From Wins Over Man City

Chelsea’s German head coach Thomas Tuchel gives a post match interview after the English FA Cup final football match between Chelsea and Leicester City at Wembley Stadium in north west London on May 15, 2021. – Leicester won the FA Cup for the first time in the club’s 137-year history as Youri Tielemans’s sensational strike beat Chelsea 1-0 in front of 22,000 fans at Wembley. (Photo by Nick Potts / POOL / AFP)

 

Chelsea manager Thomas Tuchel said on Monday his side can approach this weekend’s Champions League final against Manchester City with confidence after recent victories against Pep Guardiola’s Premier League winners.

The Blues will face City in Porto on Saturday after securing a top-four finish in the English top-flight despite a 2-1 defeat at Aston Villa.

Tuchel outfoxed Guardiola in last month’s FA Cup semi-final before inflicting a rare home league defeat on City but his side have lost three of their past four games in all competitions.

The German, who replaced Frank Lampard in January, said reaching the top four after to Sunday’s loss at Villa Park was an “outstanding achievement” and his players were now having a short mental break.

“I want them to be here on Wednesday full of joy because this is maybe one of their most exciting weeks in their whole life as professional players,” he said.

Tuchel, whose Paris Saint-German side were beaten last year by Bayern Munich in the Champions League final, said the recent victories against City had proved they were beatable.

“I think it helped us to bond, to grow and to arrive with a lot of self-confidence,” he said.

“Manchester City are the benchmark. They are the champions.

“They are the benchmark in Europe and in this league and we are the guys who want to hunt them and want to close the gap.”

“The experience helped,” he added.

“It gives you not an advantage but it helps us to arrive with confidence, to be well aware of what is needed to have a chance to beat them.”

Tuchel said he was worried his side had lost three of their past four matches in all competitions, including the FA Cup final against Leicester, but said they were playing well.

“It concerns me because it always concerns me when we lose and this is not so easy to get a grip on these losses because the data we produce, the statistics we produce, the performances we produce, do not indicate that it’s necessary or even logical to lose,” he said.

“We simply have not been lucky enough in these games. We maybe didn’t push it too much or whatever and we’re looking for reasons but we cannot deny we had good performances,” he added.

Tuchel said goalkeeper Edouard Mendy had shown “huge improvement” in his battle to be fit for the final in Porto after suffering a rib injury following a collision with the post in the Villa defeat.

“He’s made a huge improvement in the management of pain,” said the Chelsea boss.

“So we need a further update on Wednesday but we hope to have him back in training.”

AFP

Iheanacho Scores But Chelsea Beat Leicester To Gain Top-Four Advantage

Chelsea's German head coach Thomas Tuchel (L) applauds the fans following during the English Premier League football match between Chelsea and Leicester City at Stamford Bridge in London on May 18, 2021. Chelsea won the match 2-1. PETER CZIBORRA / POOL / AFP
Chelsea’s German head coach Thomas Tuchel (L) applauds the fans following during the English Premier League football match between Chelsea and Leicester City at Stamford Bridge in London on May 18, 2021. Chelsea won the match 2-1. PETER CZIBORRA / POOL / AFP

 

Kelechi Iheanco’s goal was not enough as Chelsea avenged their FA Cup final defeat by Leicester to move above the Foxes into third in the Premier League with a 2-1 win in front of 8,000 fans at Stamford Bridge on Tuesday.

Antonio Rudiger and Jorginho, from the penalty spot, scored the goals for Thomas Tuchel’s men to keep a place in next season’s Champions League in their own hands.

However, victory came at a cost for the Blues as N’Golo Kante limped off injured in the first half just 11 days before they face Manchester City in the Champions League final.

Victory away to Aston Villa on Sunday will guarantee Chelsea a top-four finish.

Leicester will forever have the memories of winning the FA Cup for the first time at Wembley on Saturday, but are now at risk of missing out on Champions League football on the final day of the campaign for the second consecutive season.

Brendan Rodgers’s men still lead Liverpool by three points, but the Reds will go fourth on goal difference if they win at Burnley on Wednesday.

Leicester host Tottenham on the final day, while Jurgen Klopp’s men welcome Crystal Palace to Anfield.

Chelsea's Italian midfielder Jorginho (R) celebrates scoring his team's second goal during the English Premier League football match between Chelsea and Leicester City at Stamford Bridge in London on May 18, 2021. Glyn KIRK / POOL / AFP
Chelsea’s Italian midfielder Jorginho (R) celebrates scoring his team’s second goal during the English Premier League football match between Chelsea and Leicester City at Stamford Bridge in London on May 18, 2021. Glyn KIRK / POOL / AFP

 

Roared on by the biggest attendance at Stamford Bridge in over 14 months, Chelsea exploded out the blocks with Leicester barely able to get out their own half in the first 45 minutes.

However, a combination of Kasper Schmeichel and controversial refereeing kept the hosts at bay until the break.

Chelsea were denied in a dramatic end to the cup final by a VAR review which ruled out Ben Chilwell’s goal for offside.

Timo Werner had two more goals disallowed in the first half as the German international was firstly flagged offside before his second effort was ruled out by a VAR review for handball.

But in between, Werner was rightly dismayed when he was somehow denied a penalty.

Bizarre decision

Youri Tielemans’s stunning strike was the difference between the sides three days ago, but the Belgian was caught dallying on the ball inside his own box by Werner and kicked the former RB Leipzig striker as he attempted to clear.

Referee Mike Dean bizarrely blew for a free-kick against Werner and was not asked to review his original decision by VAR.

With millions on the line for a place in the Champions League, that decision could have proved very costly for Chelsea.

But there was little doubt about the outcome once Rudiger bundled home a corner two minutes into the second half.

Werner finally got a VAR call to go his way to double Chelsea’s lead 24 minutes from time.

Wesley Fofana’s foul on Werner was initially given as a free-kick outside the box, but on review Dean was told to point to the penalty spot.

Jorginho coolly sent Schmeichel the wrong way and for 10 minutes, Chelsea looked to be cruising.

However, Leicester set up a nervy finale when Wilfred Ndidi robbed Mateo Kovacic and teed up Iheanacho to slot home his 19th goal of the season.

The Nigerian also became the first player to score on all seven days of the week in a single Premier League season.

Leicester had a glorious chance to salvage a point and keep their top-four fate in their own hands in the final minute, but Ayoze Perez blasted over from Ricardo Pereira’s cut-back.

Tempers flared in stoppage time with both sets of players, substitutes and coaches involved in an altercation after Rudiger took exception to a challenge from Pereira on Chilwell.

Chelsea, though, kept their heads to see out the final few seconds and take a huge step towards another season of Champions League football.

 

Tuchel Tells Chelsea Not To Fear Leicester Rematch

Chelsea’s German head coach Thomas Tuchel gives a post match interview after the English FA Cup final football match between Chelsea and Leicester City at Wembley Stadium in north west London on May 15, 2021. – Leicester won the FA Cup for the first time in the club’s 137-year history as Youri Tielemans’s sensational strike beat Chelsea 1-0 in front of 22,000 fans at Wembley. (Photo by Nick Potts / POOL / AFP)

 

Thomas Tuchel encouraged his Chelsea players not to waste the success of his first few months in charge at Stamford Bridge in the final week of the Premier League season ahead of a FA Cup final rematch against Leicester on Tuesday.

Chelsea were beaten 1-0 by the Foxes at Wembley on Saturday to miss out on their first shot at silverware this month.

Tuchel’s men also face Manchester City in the Champions League final on May 29, but need two wins from their final two Premier League games just to qualify for next season’s Champions League.

Liverpool’s dramatic late win at West Brom on Sunday, thanks to goalkeeper Alisson Becker’s 95th minute header, means the Reds should finish in the top four if they win their last two games at the expense of one of Leicester or Chelsea.

“It is easier to be self-confident when you constantly win, but there is no need to be afraid,” said Tuchel after experiencing back-to-back defeats for the first time since he took charge in January. “We need to believe in ourselves.

“It’s super important for our ambitions (to qualify for the Champions League). The situation is very clear, it is still in our hands. It is what we have worked hard for.”

Tuchel dismissed suggestions the cup final defeat had put more pressure on his side to gain revenge against the Foxes.

But he lamented a 1-0 home defeat to Arsenal last week, when he made seven changes with one eye on Wembley, for blowing a commanding position in the battle for a top-four finish.

The German said he did not watch Liverpool’s late win at the Hawthorns due to his superstition.

“It did not help not to watch it,” he added. “It does not make things boring, it was a fantastic header in the last minute that makes things pretty interesting, but it is still in our hands.

“The setback was the Arsenal game, it is our fault it is so close again. We left the door open and Liverpool put a foot into the door.

“We had a huge performance so far but we need to finish the job. We need to focus, forget the other results and rely on ourselves.”

AFP

Leicester Win FA Cup For First Time After Tielemans Screamer

Leicester City's Belgian midfielder Youri Tielemans (L) celebrates scoring his team's first goal with Leicester City's Spanish striker Ayoze Perez (R) during the English FA Cup final football match between Chelsea and Leicester City at Wembley Stadium in north west London on May 15, 2021. MATTHEW CHILDS / POOL / AFP
Leicester City’s Belgian midfielder Youri Tielemans (L) celebrates scoring his team’s first goal with Leicester City’s Spanish striker Ayoze Perez (R) during the English FA Cup final football match between Chelsea and Leicester City at Wembley Stadium in north west London on May 15, 2021.
MATTHEW CHILDS / POOL / AFP

 

Leicester won the FA Cup for the first time in the club’s 137-year history on Saturday as Youri Tielemans’s sensational strike beat Chelsea 1-0 in front of 22,000 fans at Wembley.

The largest crowd for a sports event in England since the coronavirus pandemic hit 14 months ago were treated to a goal worthy to win any trophy as the Belgian midfielder blasted into the top corner on 63 minutes.

Kasper Schmeichel produced a stunning save to deny Mason Mount late on and Chelsea also had a goal ruled out by a VAR review for offside.

Leicester City's English-born Jamaican defender Wes Morgan (L) and Leicester City's Danish goalkeeper Kasper Schmeichel (R) hold up the winner's trophy as the Leicester players celebrate victory after the English FA Cup final football match between Chelsea and Leicester City at Wembley Stadium in north west London on May 15, 2021. Nick Potts / POOL / AFP
Leicester City’s English-born Jamaican defender Wes Morgan (L) and Leicester City’s Danish goalkeeper Kasper Schmeichel (R) hold up the winner’s trophy as the Leicester players celebrate victory after the English FA Cup final football match between Chelsea and Leicester City at Wembley Stadium in north west London on May 15, 2021. Nick Potts / POOL / AFP

 

Five years after the Foxes stunned the Premier League’s giants to become champions, Leicester have now claimed English football’s other prestigious trophy at the fifth time of asking.

Four times they had previously lost the final, but the last of those was 52 years ago.

A historic week for Brendan Rodgers’s men could get even better as they are on the verge of sealing a place in next season’s Champions League.

The sides meet again in three days’ time at Stamford Bridge in a pivotal clash to decide who secures a top-four finish in the Premier League.

Chelsea need a quick response after losing for just the fourth time in 27 games since Thomas Tuchel replaced the sacked Frank Lampard in January.

The ball ends up in the Leicester net but after a VAR (Video Assistant Referee) review the goal id disallowed for offside during the English FA Cup final football match between Chelsea and Leicester City at Wembley Stadium in north west London on May 15, 2021. Kirsty Wigglesworth / POOL / AFP
The ball ends up in the Leicester net but after a VAR (Video Assistant Referee) review the goal id disallowed for offside during the English FA Cup final football match between Chelsea and Leicester City at Wembley Stadium in north west London on May 15, 2021. Kirsty Wigglesworth / POOL / AFP

 

The Blues also have a Champions League final to look forward to against Manchester City in two weeks’ time, but could end the campaign without silverware or a place in Europe’s premier club competition next season.

Chelsea’s success under Tuchel has come thanks to an excellent defensive record, but their struggles at the other end were again exposed.

Tuchel’s men dominated before half-time but laboured to create clear-cut chances despite Leicester losing defensive lynchpin Jonny Evans to injury midway through the first half.

Wayward Werner

Timo Werner’s wayward finishing has characterised his first season in England since joining from RB Leipzig for £47 million ($66 million) and the German international had another day to forget in front of goal.

Tuchel turned away in disgust after Werner blazed high and wide from the edge of the box with the Leicester defence stretched midway through the first half.

Werner then came closest to breaking the deadlock before half-time as his header drifted just wide and evaded Cesar Azpilicueta as the Chelsea captain launched himself in at the far post.

The welcome return of noise echoing down from 6,000 fans of each side from both ends of the ground helped mask a general lack of quality on the field.

Leicester City's Northern Irish manager Brendan Rodgers (C) is thrown into the air by his players on the pitch after the English FA Cup final football match between Chelsea and Leicester City at Wembley Stadium in north west London on May 15, 2021. Kirsty Wigglesworth / POOL / AFP
Leicester City’s Northern Irish manager Brendan Rodgers (C) is thrown into the air by his players on the pitch after the English FA Cup final football match between Chelsea and Leicester City at Wembley Stadium in north west London on May 15, 2021. Kirsty Wigglesworth / POOL / AFP

 

Another 10,000 local supporters, key workers and Football Association stakeholders were also in attendance as Wembley gears up for hosting matches at Euro 2020 next month at 25 percent capacity.

One moment of magic proved decisive as Tielemans collected possession midway inside the Chelsea half and strode forward before unleashing an unstoppable strike into the top corner past Kepa Arrizabalaga.

Tuchel flexed the strength in depth of his squad in an attempt to find an equaliser as Callum Hudson-Odoi, Ben Chilwell, Kai Havertz, Olivier Giroud and Christian Pulisic were all introduced off the bench.

But they were denied by the brilliance of Schmeichel in the Leicester goal.

Chilwell, whose every touch was booed by the Leicester support, nearly came back to haunt his old club as his header was turned onto the post by the Dane.

Mount then could not believe his luck as his sweetly struck shot was turned behind by a brilliant stop from Schmeichel.

Even when the Leicester ‘keeper was beaten, Chelsea were denied by a VAR review.

A Wes Morgan own goal looked set to send the game to extra-time, but Chilwell had strayed offside in the build-up.

Leicester players and fans celebrated the decision like a goal and were in raptures again moments later after seeing out a nervy finale.

 

AFP

Joy For Ndidi, Iheanacho As Leicester Lift English FA Cup For First Time

Leicester City's Nigerian midfielder Wilfred Ndidi holds the winner's trophy as the Leicester players celebrate victory after the English FA Cup final football match between Chelsea and Leicester City at Wembley Stadium in north west London on May 15, 2021. Kirsty Wigglesworth / POOL / AFP
Leicester City’s Nigerian midfielder Wilfred Ndidi holds the winner’s trophy as the Leicester players celebrate victory after the English FA Cup final football match between Chelsea and Leicester City at Wembley Stadium in north west London on May 15, 2021. Kirsty Wigglesworth / POOL / AFP

 

Super Eagles stars Wilfred Ndidi and Kelechi Iheanacho played key parts as Leicester beat Chelsea on Saturday to lift its first English FA Cup.

Although it was Youri Tielemans’s sensational screamer which handed Leicester victory, Iheanacho, who had a dour final, has been instrumental throughout the tournament, scoring four goals.

Meanwhile, Ndidi was as solid as ever, playing the full 90 minutes on Saturday.

Five years after the Foxes stunned the Premier League’s giants to become champions, Leicester have now, with the help of the Nigerians, claimed English football’s other prestigious trophy at the fifth time of asking.

Four times they had previously lost the final, but the last of those was 52 years ago.

“Perfect birthday gift for my daughter Loudly,” Ndidi said after the win. “What a feeling having to see the fans again. Thank you everyone.”

 

“It’s a historical day for the football club,” said Rodgers. “Winning the FA Cup for the first time. I’m so happy for the players and suppporters. They’ve lost four finals and now a fifth time we’ve managed to do it for them.”

A historic week for Rodgers’s men could get even better as they are on the verge of sealing a place in next season’s Champions League.

The sides meet again in three days’ time at Stamford Bridge in a pivotal clash to decide who secures a top-four finish in the Premier League.

Leicester City's Nigerian striker Kelechi Iheanacho celebrates on the pitch as the Leicester players celebrate victory after the English FA Cup final football match between Chelsea and Leicester City at Wembley Stadium in north west London on May 15, 2021. Kirsty Wigglesworth / POOL / AFP
Leicester City’s Nigerian striker Kelechi Iheanacho celebrates on the pitch as the Leicester players celebrate victory after the English FA Cup final football match between Chelsea and Leicester City at Wembley Stadium in north west London on May 15, 2021. Kirsty Wigglesworth / POOL / AFP

 

And Rodgers suggested his side were the neutrals favourites as they aim to upset the applecart of the Premier League’s ‘big six’ once more.

Chelsea were among the clubs to sign up to the failed, quasi-closed European Super League (ESL) project last month, along with Manchester City, Manchester United, Liverpool, Tottenham and Arsenal.

“The success of this team and club is getting to positions like this and competing. The so-called bigger clubs are expected to win but our success is competing and if we can perform like today we can go and win,” added Rodgers.

“After everything that has happened this year, I’m sure there were people hoping from a neutral perspective that we could go on and upset the odds.”

Chelsea need a quick response after losing for just the fourth time in 27 games since Thomas Tuchel replaced the sacked Frank Lampard in January.

The Blues also have a Champions League final to look forward to against Manchester City in two weeks’ time, but could end the campaign without silverware or a place in Europe’s premier club competition next season.

“Of course we are disappointed but we are not angry,” said Tuchel. “This performance was enough to win it, today we are simply unlucky. You need luck in this game to be able to win”

VAR to the rescue

Chelsea’s success under Tuchel has come thanks to an excellent defensive record, but their struggles at the other end were again exposed as they rarely threatened until going behind.

The welcome return of noise echoing down from 6,000 fans of each side from both ends of the ground helped mask a general lack of quality on the field for the first hour.

One moment of magic proved decisive as Tielemans collected possession midway inside the Chelsea half and strode forward before unleashing an unstoppable strike into the top corner past Kepa Arrizabalaga.

Tuchel flexed the strength in depth of his squad in an attempt to find an equaliser as Callum Hudson-Odoi, Ben Chilwell, Kai Havertz, Olivier Giroud and Christian Pulisic were all introduced off the bench.

But they were denied by the brilliance of Kasper Schmeichel in the Leicester goal.

Chilwell, whose every touch was booed by the Leicester support, twice nearly came back to haunt his old club as his first effort was turned onto the post by the Dane.

Leicester City's English-born Jamaican defender Wes Morgan (L) and Leicester City's Danish goalkeeper Kasper Schmeichel (R) hold up the winner's trophy as the Leicester players celebrate victory after the English FA Cup final football match between Chelsea and Leicester City at Wembley Stadium in north west London on May 15, 2021. Nick Potts / POOL / AFP
Leicester City’s English-born Jamaican defender Wes Morgan (L) and Leicester City’s Danish goalkeeper Kasper Schmeichel (R) hold up the winner’s trophy as the Leicester players celebrate victory after the English FA Cup final football match between Chelsea and Leicester City at Wembley Stadium in north west London on May 15, 2021. Nick Potts / POOL / AFP

 

Mason Mount then could not believe his luck as his sweetly struck shot was turned behind by a brilliant stop from Schmeichel.

Even when the Leicester ‘keeper was beaten, Chelsea were denied by a VAR review.

Wes Morgan’s attempted clearance deflected in off Chilwell, but the England international had strayed offside in the build-up.

“Thank you VAR! What an amazing technology,” said Tielemans.

Leicester players and fans celebrated the decision like a goal and were in raptures again moments later after seeing out a nervy finale.

 

 

Smith Rowe Scores As Arsenal Beat Chelsea

Arsenal’s English midfielder Emile Smith Rowe celebrates with teammates after scoring his team’s opening goal during the English Premier League football match against Chelsea at Stamford Bridge in London on May 12, 2021. Shaun Botterill / POOL / AFP

 

Arsenal dented Chelsea’s bid to finish in the Premier League’s top four as Emile Smith Rowe punished Jorginho’s blunder to seal a 1-0 win on Wednesday.

Midfielder Jorginho was guilty of a woefully misplaced back-pass that ended with Gunners youngster Smith Rowe slotting home early in the first half at Stamford Bridge.

Thomas Tuchel’s home side were bereft of quality in the final third as they succumbed to only a third defeat in their 26 matches in all competitions.

The Blues remain in fourth place, but their bid to qualify for next season’s Champions League via a top-four finish is now on a knife-edge.

They sit six points clear of fifth-placed West Ham, who have a game in hand, and seven ahead of sixth-placed Liverpool, who could be the biggest threat with two games in hand.

Chelsea’s tepid display was hardly ideal preparation for their attempt to win the first trophy of Tuchel’s reign in  Saturday’s FA Cup final against Leicester at Wembley.

Beaten for the first time in six league games, Chelsea’s final two top-flight matches against the Foxes and Aston Villa next week now take on extra significance.

That will deny Tuchel the chance to rest players before the Champions League final against Manchester City on May 29.

Eighth-placed Arsenal’s first league double over Chelsea since 2003-04 was a rare bright spot in a turbulent season.

Gunners boss Mikel Arteta is fighting to persuade the Arsenal hierarchy to keep faith with him after their lacklustre Europa League semi-final exit against Villarreal.

Arsenal’s English midfielder Emile Smith Rowe (L) vies with Chelsea’s Spanish defender Cesar Azpilicueta during the English Premier League football match at Stamford Bridge in London on May 12, 2021. Catherine Ivill / POOL / AFP

 

The Spaniard insists his side “have made progress in many areas” this season, even though are likely to miss out on European football for the first time since 1995-96.

Against that troubled backdrop, beating in-form Chelsea was evidence that Arteta may yet to be able to revive Arsenal’s fortunes.

 

– Tenacious Arsenal –

Keeping one eye on the FA Cup final, Tuchel made seven changes from the side that won at Manchester City on Saturday.

Kai Havertz was one of those restored to the line-up and the German forward wasted a golden opportunity to put Chelsea ahead.

Havertz alertly caught Pablo Mari in possession near the halfway line when the Arsenal defender tried to take an extra touch rather than clear.

Sprinting through on goal, Havertz had just Bernd Leno to beat but fired high over the bar.

Arsenal made the most of that escape to take the lead thanks to Jorginho’s gift in the 16th minute.

Smith Rowe notched his first Premier League goal against West Bromwich Albion on Sunday and the 20-year-old’s second may prove to be one of the easiest he ever scores.

Jorginho carelessly failed to check where Kepa Arrizabalaga was positioned before passing well away from the Chelsea keeper from the edge of the area.

Kepa scrambled to claw the ball off the line, but Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang pounced and teed up Smith Rowe to tap into the empty net.

Mason Mount was denied when he ran onto Havertz’s pass and saw his shot turned away by Leno.

Chelsea kept creating but couldn’t find the final touch, with Christian Pulisic heading over from close-range after Kurt Zouma’s effort fell to him.

The Blues had lost their last eight league games at Stamford Bridge when trailing at half-time, last winning from that position in 2013.

Tuchel’s men dominated possession but Arsenal defended with a tenacity that eluded them for much of the season.

Pulisic thought he had equalised when he bundled home from Havertz’s flick on the hour, but the goal was correctly ruled out by VAR for offside.

Chelsea were inches away from equalising in the last minute when Zouma’s header was tipped onto the bar by Leno before Olivier Giroud’s follow-up cannoned off the woodwork.

Chelsea Beat Man City To Delay Premier League Title Party

Chelsea's Spanish defender Marcos Alonso (2nd R) shoots to score their late winner during the English Premier League football match between Manchester City and Chelsea at the Etihad Stadium in Manchester, north west England, on May 8, 2021. Chelsea won the game 2-1. Laurence Griffiths / POOL / AFP
Chelsea’s Spanish defender Marcos Alonso (2nd R) shoots to score their late winner during the English Premier League football match between Manchester City and Chelsea at the Etihad Stadium in Manchester, north west England, on May 8, 2021. Chelsea won the game 2-1.
Laurence Griffiths / POOL / AFP

 

Chelsea forced Manchester City to put their Premier League title party on hold on Saturday, winning 2-1 to boost their own chances of a top-four finish in a dress rehearsal for the Champions League final.

Raheem Sterling gave the home side the lead just before half-time at an empty Etihad Stadium but Hakim Ziyech levelled and Marcos Alonso bundled in the winner in the dying seconds.

City could be crowned champions before they play again. Second-placed Manchester United face three matches before Guardiola’s men are next in action, against Newcastle on Friday.

The point lifts Chelsea into third spot, six clear of fifth-placed West Ham with just three games to go.

Thomas Tuchel’s in-form team ended City’s dreams of a historic quadruple by beating them in the FA Cup semi-final last month and they once more proved tricky opponents.

City, who have a huge 13-point advantage over second-placed Manchester United, are certain to win their third Premier League title in four years but must now wait for it to be confirmed.

Pep Guardiola made nine changes from the side that saw off Paris Saint-Germain in the second leg of the Champions League semi-final in midweek, with Ederson and Ruben Dias the only players to keep their places.

Chelsea made five changes following their triumph over Real Madrid.

The home side dominated possession in the early stages, with Ferran Torres firing over after a thrust down the right and Benjamin Mendy shooting wide.

Raheem Sterling was booked in the 12th minute after catching Timo Werner with his studs but the punishment could have been worse.

Werner had the ball in the net just after the half-hour but he was well offside and Sterling had a shot at the other end but clear-cut chances were at a premium.

Ziyech tested Ederson in the City goal as the half-time break neared but moments later the home side were ahead.

Gabriel Jesus shrugged off Andreas Christensen to break into the area. He squared, looking for Sergio Aguero. The Argentine’s touch was poor but Sterling was on hand to tuck home.

City should have been 2-0 in first-half stoppage time but Aguero paid the price for attempting a Panenka penalty that was easily saved by Edouard Mendy, drawing the ire of Guardiola.

Jesus won the spot-kick when he was bundled over by Billy Gilmour.

Chelsea fightback

As the second half wore on the visitors started to establish a foothold and they equalised just after the hour when Rodri lost possession on the halfway line.

Chelsea broke down the right and Cesar Azpilicueta picked out Ziyech just outside the area. The Moroccan drilled a low shot into the bottom corner.

Guardiola threw on Ilkay Gundogan and Phil Foden for Torres and Aguero as his side went in search of the win.

Chelsea substitute Callum Hudson-Odoi had the ball in the net with about 10 minutes to go but the goal was ruled out for a marginal offside.

The finish was frantic. Sterling had a penalty appeal turned down and Alonso then grabbed a last-gasp winner after an assist from Werner.

Tuchel has transformed Chelsea’s fortunes since replacing Frank Lampard at Stamford Bridge in January, losing just two matches on his way to the FA Cup final and Champions League final.

Their remaining three league matches are against Arsenal, Leicester — their FA Cup final opponents — and Aston Villa but they will now be strongly fancied to qualify for the Champions League for the third season in a row.

 

AFP

 

Tuchel Hails Chelsea’s Desire After Real Madrid Win

Chelsea’s German head coach Thomas Tuchel celebrates his team’s second goal during the UEFA Champions League second leg semi-final football match against Real Madrid at Stamford Bridge in London on May 5, 2021. Glyn KIRK / AFP

 

Thomas Tuchel hailed the hunger of his “fantastic” Chelsea stars as they reached the Champions League final with a 2-0 win against Real Madrid on Wednesday.

Goals from Timo Werner and Mason Mount booked Chelsea’s first Champions League final appearance since they won the competition for the only time in 2012.

Tuchel’s side will face Premier League rivals Manchester City in the final in Istanbul on May 29.

Chelsea’s 3-1 aggregate victory was well deserved as they produced a commanding display in the semi-final second leg at Stamford Bridge, stifling Real’s sporadic attacks and repeatedly hitting them on the counter.

They could easily have won more convincingly and Blues boss Tuchel was impressed by their tenacious performance.

“It was difficult in the first half when they had a lot of possession and made us suffer,” Tuchel said.

“We were dangerous on counter-attacks, but never lost the desire or hunger to defend.

“It was a fantastic performance in the second half and we could have scored more earlier to be safe.

“It is a fantastic achievement and big congratulations to the team.”

Real Madrid’s Belgian goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois saves a shot from Chelsea’s French midfielder N’Golo Kante (L) during the UEFA Champions League second leg semi-final football match at Stamford Bridge in London on May 5, 2021. Glyn KIRK / AFP

 

Chelsea, who also have an FA Cup final date against Leicester on the horizon, have kept 19 clean sheets since Tuchel replaced the sacked Frank Lampard in January.

That defensive efficiency will give them a chance against City, who they have already beaten in the FA Cup semi-finals this season.

Chelsea face City again in the Premier League on Saturday and Tuchel won’t look further ahead than that.

“Ask me four days before the final,” he said of Chelsea’s chances in Turkey.

“It is too early to talk about the final because there can be injured players, out of form, or whatever happens.

“We need to wait and see, hopefully, we arrive with the whole squad and in a good moment, because it is not done yet.

“We want to go all the way, and that means arriving in Istanbul wanting to win.”

 

‘Should Have Scored Five’

Tuchel also guided Paris Saint-Germain to last season’s Champions League final, where they lost to Bayern Munich, and he conceded it was a surprise to be back in the showpiece so soon.

“I am very happy that we have achieved this, I am very grateful and thankful to have this opportunity,” he said.

“You can never be ahead of plan as a manager and as a player, it does not exist.”

Mount’s goal in the closing minutes was a well-deserved moment in the spotlight towards the end of a superb individual season for the England midfielder.

Chelsea’s German striker Timo Werner (3R) celebrates scoring the opening goal during the UEFA Champions League second leg semi-final football match between Chelsea and Real Madrid at Stamford Bridge in London on May 5, 2021. Glyn KIRK / AFP

 

Mount has emerged as Chelsea’s driving force as he silenced the critics who claimed he was given favourable treatment by former manager Frank Lampard.

Tuchel has quickly come to rely on the 22-year-old and he will have been impressed to hear Mount isn’t ready to rest on his laurels.

“We should probably have scored about five, but the most important thing is we won tonight,” Mount said.

“I can’t put it into words. To get that goal late on, you can see by the celebrations, it was a massive goal and gave us breathing space.

“We haven’t won nothing yet. We’ve got two massive cup finals and hopefully, we can win them.”

AFP