'We closed the gap for 90 minutes' - Tuchel 'so proud' after Chelsea beat 'best team in Europe' Man City to reach FA Cup final

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Thomas Tuchel said that was "very proud" of his Chelsea side after they downed "the best team in Europe" Manchester City to reach the FA Cup Final at Wembley Stadium on Saturday evening.

Hakim Ziyech's close-range finish just before the hour mark ensured a second successive trip to the showpiece game for the Blues, and ended Pep Guardiola's hopes of a continental quadruple.

In a match billed by many as the next step on City's road to a clean sweep of trophies, Tuchel saw his side grind out victory in a cagey encounter, and the German was quick to profess his pride for his players after they booked their first final under the German's reign.

What did Tuchel say?

"It was a very strong performance, [and I'm] very happy and proud," the former Paris Saint-Germain boss told BBC Sport after the final whistle. "It was a very strong performance and I am very proud of my team."

"We were not lucky to escape with a clean sheet, we worked hard for it. The guys are ready to cover for each other if anyone loses a duel. We wanted to be brave today.

“It feels fantastic because we were playing the best team in Europe right now and we managed to close the gap for 90 minutes.  Because it is so hard against City, you have to be on your top level. It was a quality performance."

Tuchel on Ziyech's matchwinner

While Guardiola overhauled a large portion of his side from their midweek Champions League triumph over Borussia Dortmund, his opposite number instead made minimal swaps from the starting lineup that faced Porto, with Ziyech and Timo Werner the only new outfield faces.

That the pair combined for the only goal of the contest - Werner drawing out defenders with a run on the left before squaring inside for Ziyech to sweep home into an almost empty net - will have been all the more sweeter for the German, who had nothing but praise for his attacking pair alongside fellow forward Mason Mount.

“It was very nicely played," he added. "We escaped the pressure and we had a deep run from Mason, and the run from Timo. Hakim could finish from Timo’s delivery which was crucial because it was decisive.

"We had a big chance with Timo, a big chance with Ziyech and two offside goals, so it would have been possible to be more calm in that last 15 minutes but I like the effort and hard work. It was a good mix between ball possession and defending."

The bigger picture

Chelsea's victory ensures they will return to Wembley nine months on from defeat against Arsenal in last season's FA Cup Final, where they will await either fellow top-four hopefuls Leicester City or Southampton.

It represents the immediate culmination of Tuchel's impact at the club since he succeeded Frank Lampard, vindicating the Blues' decision to part ways with the club legend previously in charge.

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Their encounter with City too came with the added undercurrent of a potential undercard clash for an even bigger date with destiny, with both sides set to compete in the semi-finals of the Champions League.

The Blues will have to overcome Real Madrid if they are to book a trip to Istanbul, while their fellow English side will have to best last year's beaten finalists Paris Saint-Germain for a place - but the prospect of a potentiial rematch on a grander stage will undoubtedly linger in the minds of both sides after this weekend's encounter.

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