Christian Pulisic had plenty of reasons to celebrate. (Photo courtesy of Chelsea)
By Michael Lewis
One thing is certain come May 29: One American will earn a gold medal at the UEFA Champions League final for the first time.
Christian Pulisic and Chelsea made sure of that Wednesday as they secured a 2-0 triumph over Real Madrid to win its semifinal series, 3-1, at Stamford Bridge in London.
Pulisic came off the bench in the second half to set up the Blues’ second goal after recording the lone score for his side in the 1-1 first-leg draw in Madrid, Spain April 27.
Chelsea and Pulisic will face off against Manchester City and U.S. men’s national team teammate and goalkeeper Zack Steffen in Istanbul, Turkey three weeks from Saturday.
On Tuesday, City clinched a berth in the final with a 2-0 win over Paris Saint-Germain to win that series, 4-1.
It will be the first time Americans and their teams will meet in a Champions League final.
— U.S. Soccer MNT (@USMNT) May 5, 2021
Despite his fine form of late, Pulisic found himself on the bench for the opening kickoff, but he made the most of his opportunity after coming on for Timo Werner in the 23rd minute. The German forward had given Chelsea a 28th-minute advantage.
After sending a shot from a difficult angle wide left several minutes prior, Pulisic made his mark in the 85th minute.
N’Golo Kante swiped a pass from the back and fed the 22-year-old midfielder on the right side. Pulisic penetrated deep into the penalty area, stopped while considering his options before feeding Mount, who beat Courtois from five yards into the lower right corner.
Mount and Pulisic celebrated by sliding in unison toward the right corner flag before their teammates piled on.
Pulisic’s influence during his 23 minutes could be measured in another way as two Real players were awarded yellow cards for two fouls on Pulisic- Toni Kroos (72nd minute) and Federico Valverde (90th minute).
There will be little time to rest for Chelsea, which meets Manchester City in an English Premier League match Saturday.
Pulisic and Chelsea are vying for a treble. After winning the English League Cup thanks to a 1-0 victory past ManCity at Wembley on April 17, they will play in the English F.A. Cup final against Leicester City there Saturday, May 15. Steffen, who has been a backup goalkeeper for most of this season, was in the net for City in the League Cup final.