Pulisic 'so proud' as he becomes first US star to win Champions League

By Sports Desk May 29, 2021

Christian Pulisic said it felt "just crazy" as the Chelsea forward became the first American player to be a Champions League winner.

The 22-year-old former Borussia Dortmund star came off the bench in the second half and went close to doubling Chelsea's lead, but they settled for a 1-0 victory over Manchester City.

Speaking after the final in Porto, Pulisic told CBS Sports: "I can't explain it, it's still such a shock. I'm so proud."

He was watched by his parents and a number of friends from the stands at the Estadio do Dragao, making the occasion all the more special.

"I'm so thankful for all the support. To have people here today was amazing," Pulisic said.

"I knew I was going to have to put in the hard work defensively. I wish I put away the chance I had. I didn't quite get under it like I wanted, but in the end this team was always going to win this game and I'm so proud of them."

Plagued by injuries this season, Pulisic was able to bring father Mark and mother Kelley into the celebrations on the pitch to mark a happy ending to a tough campaign.

Pulisic added: "I have my parents here so I've just been speaking to them. I'm so proud to be here.

"It's been a difficult road for me and I couldn't imagine winning the Champions League ever in my life and now I'm here so it's just crazy."

While Chelsea's players head off to summer breaks or away on international duty, Pulisic said the aim next season would be to "come back and try to do the same thing".

Olivier Giroud, who played a significant part in Chelsea reaching the final, was an unused substitute against City.

But the veteran striker, who could have a big role to play for France at Euro 2020, was determined to enjoy the evening.

"It's extraordinary, we had a remarkable route, we knocked out some big teams like Real [Madrid], Atletico wasn't easy, Porto either, and tonight we played against a great team in City," Giroud told RMC Sports.

"It wasn't played out on a big thing, these kinds of matches are played out in details."

Giroud hailed the performance of player of the match and fellow Frenchman N'Golo Kante, whose action-packed display in midfield kept Chelsea moving forward.

"It's right that he was man of the match, he's huge, he won 50 balls, he hurt them," Giroud said.

"He's unbelievable, this guy. It feels like there are 12 players on the pitch with him. I'm happy for him.

"We're a bunch of friends and it shows on the pitch, I'm happy that our efforts have been rewarded. You could see our determination tonight and our desire to go out and get it."

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  • 'A lot of things went wrong' in Spurs defeat but Nuno feels first half set the standard 'A lot of things went wrong' in Spurs defeat but Nuno feels first half set the standard

    Nuno Espirito Santo was keen to focus on a positive first half against Chelsea after Tottenham collapsed following the interval, when "there were a lot of things that went wrong".

    For the second week in a row, Spurs lost 3-0 to London rivals in the Premier League, although they were initially more impressive against Chelsea than they had been at Crystal Palace.

    The out-of-sorts European champions reached the interval with the game still goalless, however, and the introduction of N'Golo Kante then changed the game.

    He scored Chelsea's second goal via a huge deflection after Thiago Silva had become the club's second-oldest goalscorer in the competition. The 36-year-old trails only Didier Drogba (37 in 2015) in that regard.

    Antonio Rudiger blasted in a late third, as Chelsea had 14 second-half shots, including 10 on target. Tottenham mustered just two and one respectively.

    "There were a lot of things that went wrong," Spurs coach Nuno told BBC Sport.

    "Let's start with the first half – I think it was a good game, competitive. We were on the the front foot, started pressing high, creating problems and had chances.

    "In the second half, the set-piece and goal changes the game. Then it becomes much harder, the game totally changed and Chelsea took control and were the better team in the second half.

    "It's difficult, but I'm proud of the first half and of all the game because we had troubles in the team and the players went to their limits."

    Spurs had 14 pressed sequences on Sunday, having averaged 10.3 per game so far this season, as they adopted a far more aggressive approach before half-time.

    That subsided in the second period, in which Chelsea dominated 57.7 per cent of the possession, but Nuno repeatedly preferred to highlight his side's early work across his media duties.

    The former Wolves boss described Tottenham as "fantastic" in that spell to Sky Sports, adding: "The first 45 minutes was huge for us. Now we have to sustain this level over the whole game."

    Nuno then told a news conference: "[It was a] very good first half, very good. We competed really well, we played good football, we pressed high.

    "So, we have the awareness that we have a lot of things we need to improve, but the awareness of the first half must stick with us so we can build on it."

    He added: "If there's only one positive today, that was the first half."

  • Tuchel impressed with ruthless Blues' response after delivering home truths at Spurs Tuchel impressed with ruthless Blues' response after delivering home truths at Spurs

    Thomas Tuchel was impressed with the way his Chelsea side reacted to some half-time home truths by blowing Tottenham away in a 3-0 London derby victory.

    The Blues were second best in the first half at Tottenham Stadium after emotional pre-match tributes to Spurs, Chelsea and England legend Jimmy Greaves, who died at the age of 81 on Sunday.

    Chelsea only registered one shot on target in the opening 45 minutes and Tottenham showed more intensity before Tuchel made his side well aware they must raise their game at the break.

    The outstanding Thiago Silva headed the European champions in front four minutes into the second half and a deflected strike from the fit-again N'Golo Kante, who replaced Mason Mount at half-time, doubled their lead.

    Spurs had no answer to the Blues and Antonio Rudiger compounded their misery by drilling home in stoppage time as Tuchel's men went top of the Premier League on goal difference.

    Tuchel says Chelsea's first-half display was unacceptable but he was pleased with the manner in which they took control following the interval.

    Asked if it was a game of two halves, he told Sky Sports: "Yes it was, you're absolutely right. I was absolutely not happy with the first 45 minutes.

    "There were individual performances which were great in the first half from Kepa [Arrizabalaga] and Thiago Silva. Even more players were good but in general we lacked intent and energy in duels and 50-50 balls.

    "I had the feeling we wanted to impress by pure skills but in derbies like this it is not always about just skills. It is about aggression, winning duels and performing better as a team.

    "We spoke clearly about it at half-time. In the second half it was a very good performance and a deserved win in the second half. It was a very good reaction so I am happy with the performance in the second half."

    Rudiger was late getting into the stadium after experiencing some technical difficulties with the coronavirus pass on his phone, and Tuchel felt that summed up Chelsea's first-half performance.

    He said: "I was not concerned but it is strange when your player arrives late. He had some [coronavirus] passport issues. It was like this in the first half. We were there but not fully there. I was glad we were able to overcome these situations.

    "We are competitive and we want to be competitive. It is no excuse to say we are not ready. We want to produce results and we can. It's what we want at the club.

    "We want to win. We are competitive in this level to win already but we still have things to improve. The first half was proof of that.

    "It's good to have these hard situations now and to overcome them. We are able to produce deserved wins so it's a good basis to keep on going."

  • Chelsea put Spurs in their place as greats turn out for Greaves Chelsea put Spurs in their place as greats turn out for Greaves

    It's a funny old game, but it might take gallows humour to raise much of a smile around north London this season. 

    Tottenham's season-opening streak of three straight 1-0 wins bought Nuno Espirito Santo substantial early goodwill as the Portuguese began his reign as head coach, yet there was plenty that did not sit right. 

    Spurs were riding their luck, out-shot 25-8 by Wolves at Molineux and beaten on the expected goals count there too. Similar applied to the fantasy start to the season when they edged out champions Manchester City. 

    But Wilfried Zaha and Crystal Palace were ruthless interlopers to Nuno's honeymoon in early September with their 3-0 Selhurst Park demolition, and now Chelsea have repeated the trick, scoring freely in the second half at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium. 

    Chelsea also won 3-0 but might easily have had five or six. Sixty years have passed since Tottenham Hotspur were English champions. It might be a matter of months before Chelsea can describe themselves as such again. 

    It was glaringly obvious this was not the game in which to put on a show, much as Tottenham wanted to pay homage to Jimmy Greaves, whose "funny old game" catchphrase has become part of the immemorially cliched lexicon of the English game. 

    Greaves netted 220 league goals for Spurs and is their all-time record scorer, but he also plundered 124 in the old First Division for Chelsea, and his allegiances for this game would have been split. 

    On the day his death at the age of 81 was announced, and a host of Spurs greats turned out to pay tribute, it was Greaves' first club who showed they are light-years ahead in London. 

    As Tottenham and Arsenal prepare to confect a battle perhaps for fifth or sixth place this season, Chelsea have the title in their sights and the second-half exhibition in this space-age stadium was one that Greaves would have surely quietly admired. 

    Thomas Tuchel watched his team fail to hit the target in the first half, but he struck bullseye with a substitution at the break, hauling off Mason Mount and introducing N'Golo Kante. 

    The game changed absolutely from that point on, Chelsea finishing 10-2 ahead in the shots-on-target stakes, at times queueing up to score against a lamentably dire Spurs. 

    As Chelsea's game took off, Spurs flatlined. Harry Kane, who said last month he would be "100 per cent focused on helping the team achieve success" this season, must be wondering what form that success might take. He and Son Heung-min were deadly in the early stages of last season; here, they played almost like strangers, the intuitive chemistry that defined their partnership woefully absent. 

    Kane had two shots, a free-kick into the wall and a 22-yard grass-cutter that Kepa Arrizabalaga clutched fuss-free. Of course he will score again for Spurs, and add to his 166 Premier League goals, but Greaves' club record should be safe for a good while on this evidence. He has scored just once in his last nine league games against Chelsea now. 

    Spurs won 65.4 per cent of the first-half duels and Tuchel, whether he had that exact data or not, realised what was wrong. 

    "We lacked energy and we lacked being more relentless in duels, to decide 50-50 balls for us," Tuchel told Sky Sports. "I had the feeling we wanted to impress by pure skills." 

    He told his players they would get reward by showing aggression and getting on top of those 50-50s. 

    "We spoke clearly about it at half-time," Tuchel added. 

    Thiago Silva was "outstanding" for Chelsea, Tuchel noted, and the Brazilian's header in the 49th minute gave Chelsea the breakthrough. 

    Kante's 25-yard strike bounced off the left shin of Eric Dier and left Hugo Lloris flat-footed as Chelsea moved 2-0 in front, before the team in royal blue got the third they deserved as Antonio Rudiger scored in stoppage time. 

    Spurs are a work in progress, of course they are. But this was ultimately a heavy loss against a Chelsea side who won handsomely despite Romelu Lukaku performing in a low gear throughout. 

    Steve Perryman, Martin Chivers, Glenn Hoddle. They all watched on as Spurs were humbled. 

    'Greavsie' joined Spurs shortly after they won that last league title all those years ago, and it might be decades more before they seriously challenge again. Kane said Spurs would "hopefully put in a great performance in his honour", but perhaps that tribute will have to wait seven days. 

    It's the derby against Arsenal next Sunday as the two north London giants, both lurching somewhere between transition and turmoil, duke it out. 

    Perhaps parochial bragging rights will be the zenith of their achievements this season, as this excellent Chelsea side go after the prizes that matter. 

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