By ditching ditches, Tuchel’s impenetrable Chelsea demoralized Manchester City, who were probably defeated long before the whistle that marked the end of the English Cup semi-final (1-0). The match was a case of deterrence. Azpilicueta and his teammates gave such an irreducible impression that the most sophisticated attack in Europe, diminished by the fatigue that dragged on from the Champions League, failed to clear the mind of the discouraging impressions that, ultimately, ended up reducing it even more. An error in defense precipitated the final 1-0, the work of the rebellious Ziyech. Given the relief of the contenders, the crossing acquired the character of a final. The oldest trophy in soccer will be settled on May 15. It will be disputed by Chelsea and the winner of the Leicester-Southampton semi-final. By then, if the British Government allows it, there will be an audience.
Encouraged by a benevolent quarterfinal in the Champions League, Tuchel lined up his starters. Warned after the stressful trip to Dortmund, Guardiola made a rotation that seated Gündogan, Bernardo Silva, Mahrez, Walker and Zinchenko, all important players in the network of associations that are the basis of the attack of the English league leader. In their place played Mendy, Cancelo, Sterling, Ferran Torres and Gabriel Jesús, Fernandinho, and the passes did not flow at the same speed or with the same precision. The double pivot scheme (Fernandinho and Rodri) during the opening hour did not make it easier for City to control the ball or allow Chelsea to exploit the space behind Cancelo and Mendy.
The party recreated a blockade. The two best teams in the Premier of recent months faced each other, the English semi-finalists of the Champions League and two of the best organized defenders in Europe. Their dose of fatigue added lead to a bureaucratic-scented spectacle. Wear is natural after a year of uninterrupted competitions, compressed as never before to compensate for the mismatch in schedules after the outbreak of the pandemic. The deserted stands at Wembley detracted from the excitement and added squalor to the event, resolved somewhat accidentally.
It happened before the hour of action was up, after Sterling tried to dribble Azpilicueta down the wrong leg and ended up fouling the defender. Unusual and significant. Thiago Silva took the free-kick. He played long for Chilwell, the winger found Mount stuck to the left line, and the Englishman stirred with a coordinated gesture that replicated the kind of pass that this Chelsea must repeat dozens of times a week on the practice field. Launch to the back of the rival side for Werner to run. The ball caught Cancelo badly and, predictably, warned Werner. The German attracted the centrals and put in a cross that the City goalkeeper, the American Zack Steffen, did not know whether to cut or not. He stayed halfway. Ziyech, the most incisive of the rival attackers, slipped behind him to define the empty goal. Mendy, who had to close him, did not react in time either.
City approached the Chelsea area but their shots, if any, were so predictable that Kepa did not lose his hair. This is demonstrable. The Spanish goalkeeper released a solid hairstyle, based on fixative, so that each of the clogs left by the comb in his hair was marked indelibly and deeply in the first minute as well as in the last. His team has conceded five goals against in the 20 games he has played since Tuchel coached him and this is not exactly due to the goalkeepers but to the shell that surrounds them.
Chelsea had one more chance to close the game. A heads-up between Ziyech and Steffen who saved the goalkeeper with his foot. City advanced heavily, as if fighting against its own conviction that any attempt to infiltrate the rival field would inevitably be interrupted. De Bruyne’s ankle injury, who requested the change after the break, contributed to demoralize his teammates against the tireless Jorginho, Kanté, Azpilicueta and Rudiger, true architects of a triumph that places Tuchel, after only three months in England on the brink of lifting its first trophy blue. Nothing less than the oldest of the glasses.