Real Madrid 2-3 Chelsea (5-4): Karim Benzema denied Chelsea an epic Champions League comeback victory by scoring a 96th-minute winner, sending Real Madrid through to the semi-finals
European champions Chelsea had their hopes of retaining the Champions League shot down by Real Madrid and their hero, Karim Benzema, who scored an extra-time winner in their epic quarter-final second leg.
Carlo Ancelotti ‘s side didn’t get the better of Thomas Tuchel and co on the night, but came out in the five-goal thriller, which will be remembered as an instant classic, as victors on aggregate at the Santiago Bernabeu. Mason Mount got the Blues, trailing 3-1 after a first-leg hammering, off to a brilliant start after only 15 minutes, before Antonio Rudiger levelled the tie shortly after half-time.
Marcos Alonso thought he’d completed the come back but his emphatic strike was ruled out by VAR, only for Timo Werner to give holders Chelsea the lead for good. But Los Blancos responded quickly and broke Stamford Bridge hearts, with a magnificent Luka Modric assist allowing Rodrygo to equalise and take a thrilling second leg to extra-time. Six minutes in and talisman Benzema came up trumps, heading past Edouard Mendy to send his side through to the semi-finals.
Here are seven talking points from the Bernabeu.
1. Less of a Mountain to climb
As soon as the full-time whistle blew at Stamford Bridge last Wednesday, Chelsea knew what they had to do in Madrid: score the first goal. Fortunately for Tuchel, his team did exactly that after 15 minutes when Mount finished off some slick, one-touch football from the Blues with a curled effort from just inside the Los Blancos penalty area.
Starting with Mateo Kovacic firing the ball in to Ruben Loftus-Cheek’s feet, the midfielder popped it off to the floating Timo Werner with his first touch, who also only needed one motion to thread Mount through on goal. Giving former Chelsea goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois no chance with his precise finish, the 23-year-old netted his first Champions League goal of the season and got his side off to the perfect start, reducing Real’s lead to just one.
2. Blues dominance
When it could’ve been easy for Chelsea to sit back after getting their goal with the aim of staying in the game, they weren’t afraid of the record 13-time champions. Tuchel’s team pressed high and put Los Blancos under relentless pressure, firing off nine shots to Real’s three in the first half, none of which were on target.
With their diamond midfield working a treat, the Blues were looking like the same team who deservedly lifted the trophy 10 months ago, beating Real along the way, and went into the second half with the momentum well and truly with them. Los Blancos, meanwhile, headed down the tunnel frustrated, complaining to Polish referee Szymon Marciniak after Benzema was booked.
3. Rudiger rises highest
While both managers had 15 minutes to reassess at half-time, it was more of the same as Marciniak got the game back under way. Starting on the front foot, Chelsea pushed for a second goal which would take the tie to 3-3 on aggregate and were awarded a dubious corner after their early intent led to a Reece James shot.
Mount was involved once again, setting the ball down for a corner kick which he whipped in deep to find a rising Rudiger. The defender, linked with a move to Real when his contract expires in June, had a simple task to head the ball back across goal, levelling the scores and restoring parity just six minutes into the second half.
4. VAR controversy
With the hosts doing their best to wrestle back control of the tie, they were hit with what looked to be a sucker punch, as ex-academy starlet Alonso struck to make it 3-0 on the night – but not for long. The Spaniard, who spent 11 years with Los Blancos as a youngster, looked to have completed the comeback for his current club when he lashed in from close range.
But Alonso, whose cross had been blocked by Dani Carvajal, was deemed to have controlled the ball with his hand before unleashing his right-footed strike. VAR’s controversial decision left the Blues livid, and even the injured Ben Chilwell couldn’t hide his dismay, tweeting: “The hand ball rule…” Minutes later, Chelsea’s mood was close to getting even worse, as Benzema rattled the crossbar with a thumping header.
5. Werner completes the comeback
After the frustration of Alonso’s handball, the Blues weren’t to be denied again. 13 minutes after what they thought would be the winner was chalked off, Werner came up trumps with an ice-cold goal of his own. Kovacic found the forward, who was somehow free between the Real back line, did superbly to evade a number of white shirts – most notably the desperate Carvajal and David Alaba – and smash home.
Ferland Mendy’s left leg only deflected the ball into the back of the net, leaving Los Blancos shellshocked and on their way out of the competition they so dearly treasure at the Bernabeu.
6. Rodrygo rallies Real
With Ancelotti looking to his star names in search of some inspiration, it was one of their lesser-known talents who managed to hit back after only five minutes. Brazilian winger Rodrygo was the man Modric found with an extraordinary, outside-of-the-boot pass, showing composure to beat Mendy with a well-taken volley and make it 4-4 on aggregate.
Alaba began the move, intercepting N’Golo Kante’s pass after Chelsea tried to play out from the back, with Los Blancos legend Marcelo picking up the pieces and giving Modric the ball to pull off one of the season’s best assists, taking the tie to extra-time.
Join the debate! Who will win the Champions League? Give us your prediction here.
7. Benzema gets the last laugh
After almost 100 minutes of mouth-watering Champions League football, who else but Karim Benzema – after his double at Stamford Bridge in the first leg – would get the decisive goal? The Real captain netted a bullet header following good work from partner in crime Vinicius Junior on the left wing, who’d also had a quiet night.
Benzema benefitted from Rudiger’s slip, giving him time and space to pick out where to place the ball beyond Mendy’s reach, leaving the Blues goalkeeper helpless. With his 38th goal of the term and 12th of his European campaign, the 34-year-old sent the Bernabeu wild and Los Blancos through to the semi-finals, after a nervy second period, where they’ll face bitter rivals Atletico Madrid or Premier League champions Manchester City.