When it comes to winning finals, it really doesn’t matter how you do it. All that matters is whether you win, or whether you fail to win. Luck, skill, fate, divine intervention — whatever it takes, however it happens. “We managed to find a way to win,” as apparently Petr Čech likes to say.
And we certainly needed to search hard for a way to win today. Palmeiras were far from pushovers, baffling many a casual observer on social media. With back-to-back Copa Libertadores titles under their belts, they certainly know how to get it done in knockout competitions. They came in with a clear plan, and executed to that plan with maximum effort, buoyed by massive and vociferous support that made it practically an away game for us.
Tuchel, after a whirlwind 36 hours having just barely arrived the night before from London, spend the first 20 minutes of the game in constant conversation with his players, and switched the team’s approach at least twice, at half-time and then again at the start of extra-time. Palmeiras were happy to soak up the pressure usually with all eleven players behind the ball, letting us have harmless possession in the middle third (usually with Thiago Silva) but closing down aggressively in their defensive third across the entire pitch, and limiting our movement with excellent tight marking.
All that made for an intense, sometimes frustrating game that probably wasn’t great entertainment for the neutral, but as Kai Havertz once said in Porto, “to be very honest, I don’t give a [FUN] about that”. And neither did Tuchel, who hailed his team’s performance in winning the only trophy that was missing from Chelsea’s trophy cabinet, a trophy that is often underrated in Europe but actually matters a fair bit everywhere else.
“[Palmeiras] were very good individually and had huge solidarity and discipline. They had huge sacrifice against the ball, suffer and defend together. So we knew it would be difficult to create half chances. We had to be patient but relentless at the same time [...] you don’t want to open spaces for counter-attacks which they rely on and are very good.
“[In the first half we were] a bit stuck and we struggled with the fluidity of our match. We changed the structure a bit in the second half and found the spaces better. [But] then the whole story starts from scratch [after their equalizer], which is mentally and physically not easy. We never stopped attacking and never stopped trying for the 90 minutes.
“We changed the structure again in extra time, had a different structure to defend and attack, and the team did very well to control the match completely. The guys from the bench had a huge impact.
“If you have a late penalty, you are of course lucky, but I think we deserved it because we had a lot of chances, never stopped trying, and being active the most during the game. So we take it like it is in a final against a tough opponent. It was a fantastic victory.”
“[We] don’t play our best football and it’s not our best moment in general. We struggled a little bit as a team, but as Petr Čech says many times, we managed to find a way to win, to be in the final, to win the final, and for this they deserve full credit.”
-Thomas Tuchel; source: Football.London
That’s two trophies out of a possible six this season. We can make it three by the end of the month (League Cup final against Liverpool on the 27th).
Let’s keep it going!