UEFA Champions League: The curse of a debut final hurts Manchester City after loss to Chelsea

Manchester City were playing in the final of the UEFA Champions League for the first time and they suffered a 0-1 loss to Chelsea as their quest for a treble this season was stalled.

Manchester City suffered a 1-0 loss to Chelsea in the final of the UEFA Champions League. (Image credit: UEFA Champions League Twitter)
By Siddharth vishwanathan | May 30, 2021 | 6 Min Read follow icon Follow Us


Manchester City were gunning for a treble in the 2020/21 season. After comfortably winning the Premier League and the Carabao Cup, they were gunning for the UEFA Champions League title for the first time. However, they had a formidable opponent in Chelsea who had defeated them twice heading into the match. Chelsea had knocked them out of the FA Cup and had defeated them in the last Premier League encounter.

However, Pep Guardiola’s team suffered more heartbreak at the hands of Chelsea as they lost the final 0-1. Kai Havertz scored a goal in the 42nd minute and some tactical mistakes by Pep Guardiola led to Chelsea winning the title for the second time. For Manchester City, this was a continuation of a UEFA Champions League curse that has become predominant in the 21st century.

In the last 21 years, there have been seven instances of teams entering the final of the tournament for the first time and losing. Manchester City became the eighth team to lose in their debut UEFA Champions League final. With this loss, their prospects of the treble evaporated. Apart from Manchester City, here is a look at the other teams who have lost in their first final in this competition.

UEFA Champions League 2000: Valencia

Valencia had a dream run in the 1999/2000 UEFA Champions League. They topped the group which included Bayern Munich, Rangers and PSV Eindhoven. In the round of 16, they survived some anxious moments after losing to Manchester United. However, they held their own against Bordeaux and Fiorentina to advance to the quarterfinals.

In the last eight, Valencia thrashed Lazio 5-2 in the first leg and despite losing the second one 0-1, they reached the semis. In that stage, they achieved the ultimate victory when they defeated Barcelona 5-3. The first leg victory margin of 4-1 was simply amazing. However, in the final, they were undone by the discipline of Real Madrid. Fernando Morientes, Steve McManaman and Raul scored for Real as Valencia’s dream evaporated.

UEFA Champions League 2002: Bayer Leverkusen

Bayer Leverkusen were placed in a tough group which included Barcelona, Lyon and Fenerbahce. They managed to finish second in the group and qualify for the round of 16. In that stage, Leverkusen topped the group ahead of Deortivo La Coruna, Arsenal and Juventus. Leverkusen continued the great work as they defeated Liverpool in the quarterfinals and got the better of Manchester United in the semis. In the final, they squared off against Real Madrid in Glasgow.

Raul opened the scoring in the eighth minute for Real Madrid but Lucio levelled the score for Leverkusen in the 13th minute. However, Zinedine Zidane proved to be the difference as his goal on the stroke of half-time gave Madrid the lead. Real hung on and they dashed the hopes of another side that had made their first final in the UEFA Champions League.

UEFA Champions League 2004: Monaco

Monaco had a strong start to the UEFA Champions League when they topped Group C which included Deportivo La Coruna, PSV Eindhoven and AEK Athens. In the round of 16, Monaco beat Lokomotiv Moscow on the away goals rule. In the quarterfinals, they had a massive boost as they beat Real Madrid yet again on the away goals rule. Monaco came one step closer to glory when they beat Chelsea in the semi-final.

In the final, they encountered FC Porto, a club managed by Jose Mourinho. Porto’s previous triumph in the competition had been in 1987. Monaco were playing in their first ever UEFA Champions League final. However, Porto were boosted by goals from Carlos Alberto, Deco and Dmitri Alenichev. Monaco’s quest of winning the UEFA Champions League was dashed and they have never come close since.

UEFA Champions League 2006: Arsenal

Arsenal went undefeated in the first group stage as they topped the table. Their group involved Ajax, Thun and Sparta Prague. In the round of 16, Arsenal secured a tense 1-0 win over Real Madrid and in the quarterfinal, they defeated Juventus 2-0. In the semi-final, Arsenal continued the trend of close wins in two stages as they beat Villareal 1-0. 

They headed into the UEFA Champions League final for the first time. Their opponents were Barcelona, who were playing the final for the fifth time. Arsenal were the first team from London to play the UEFA Champions League and the pressure showed. The game started badly with Jens Lehmann sent off early. But, Sol Campbell gave Arsenal the lead just before the first half.

Barcelona equalised through Samuel Eto’o near the end of the second half, and a few minutes later Juliano Belletti scored to give Barcelona a 2-1 victory. Henrik Larsson was the key difference as his attacking style created opportunities.

Manchester United denied Chelsea glory in their first UEFA Champions League final in 2008.
Manchester United denied Chelsea a win in the UEFA Champions League in 2008. (Image credit: Twitter)

UEFA Champions League 2008: Chelsea

Chelsea and Manchester United both topped their groups in the first round with some solid performances. Both sides had a smooth sailing in the round of 16 as well, with Chelsea easily beating Olympiacos. However, Manchester United struggled but overcame to win 2-1 against Lyon.

In the quarterfinal, Chelsea recovered from being 1-2 down to beat Fenerbahce 3-2. Manchester United defeated Roma 3-0. In the semi-finals, three out of the four teams were from the Premier League while Barcelona was the only side outside of England. Manchester United beat Barcelona 1-0 while the game between Liverpool and Chelsea went into extra-time. Chelsea beat Liverpool 4-3 and the first all-England UEFA Champions League final was played.

Chelsea were playing their first UEFA Champions League final and they did not show nerves. Cristiano Ronaldo opened the scoring for Manchester United in the 26th minute with a header from a cross by Wes Brown, but Frank Lampard equalised shortly before half-time. The second half and most of extra time passed without incident until Chelsea’s Didier Drogba was sent off for slapping Nemanja Vidic four minutes from the end.

After no goals in extra time, the final headed into penalties. This was the first time since 2001 that the UEFA Champions League final was decided on penalties. Ronaldo missed Manchester United’s third kick, giving John Terry the chance to win the title for Chelsea, only for him to slip and hit the post. Edwin van der Sar then saved Nicolas Anelka’s effort from Chelsea’s seventh kick to secure Manchester United’s third European Cup title.

UEFA Champions League 2019: Tottenham Hotspur

After 11 years, a club reached the final for the first time in the UEFA Champions League. The clash between Liverpool and Tottenham Hotspur became the second all-England final clash in the tournament. Liverpool and Tottenham Hotspur both finished second in their respective groups behind Paris Saint-Germain and Barcelona.

Liverpool won the UEFA Champions League after 14 years.
Liverpool denied Tottenham Hotspur glory in the 2019 UEFA Champions League final. (Image credit: Twitter)

Tottenham Hotspur defeated Borussia Dortmund 4-0. Liverpool secured a massive win against Bayern Munich. Spurs defeated Manchester City in the last eight on the away goal rules. The Reds easily swept aside Porto. Tottenham once again won in the semis due to away goals against Ajax. Liverpool, on the other hand, staged a miracle yet again. After losing 0-3 to Barcelona in the first leg, they defeated them 4-0 in the second to advance to the final.

Liverpool won the final 2-0 thanks to a penalty after 106 seconds by Mohamed Salah and a strike by substitute Divock Origi after 87 minutes. Liverpool had finally won the UEFA Champions League after 14 years while Tottenham faced heartbreak in their first final.

UEFA Champions League 2020: Paris Saint Germain

Paris Saint-Germain are the behemoths of French football but they have always underwhelmed in the UEFA Champions League. 2020 would be no different. Paris Saint-Germain topped Group A which included Real Madrid, Club Brugge and Galatasaray. Bayern Munich topped Group B over Tottenham Hotspur, Olympiacos and Red Star Belgrade. 

Liverpool and Tottenham Hotspur were knocked out in the round of 16. Paris Saint-Germain beat Borussia Dortmund 3-2 while Bayern Munich thrashed Chelsea 7-1. In the quarterfinals, Paris Saint-Germain overcame Atalanta 2-1 but Bayern Munich decimated Barcelona 8-2. Both Paris Saint-Germain and Bayern Munich registered 3-0 wins against RB Leipzig and Lyon in the semi-finals. In the final, Bayern Munich won 1-0 thanks to a 59th-minute goal scored by former Paris Saint-Germain player Kingsley Coman.

Bayern secured their sixth European Cup title and second continental treble, becoming the second European men’s football team to win the continental treble twice. Bayern also became the first team to claim any European competition with a 100 percent winning record. For Paris Saint Germain, it was the ultimate heartbreak.



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