Karim Benzema spared Real Madrid but Christian Pulisic’s away goal gives Chelsea the advantage after their Champions League semi-final first leg ended 1-1 at Estadio Alfredo Di Stefano.
Zinedine Zidane’s side were guilty of a sluggish start in Valdebebas and, although they managed to restore parity, rarely did Los Blancos look likely to take a win to Stamford Bridge.
Chelsea were good value for their 14th-minute lead as Pulisic added the finish to fine individual work, though Benzema – arguably Madrid’s only threatening player in the match – netted to draw level with Raul as the joint-fourth leading scorer in the Champions League with 71.
A significantly cagier second period followed and Madrid were even less of a danger to Edouard Mendy’s goal, while Chelsea largely seemed content to settle for their away-goal advantage.
Madrid looked to be in for a long night amid a rocky start that almost saw them fall behind after just 10 minutes, as Timo Werner inexplicably shot straight at Thibaut Courtois from close range.
The visitors did not have to wait much longer for another chance, however, and Pulisic took full advantage as he raced on to Antonio Rudiger’s long pass, coolly evaded Courtois and then shot between two defenders on the line.
But a few moments after hitting the post from distance, Benzema brought Madrid level in the 29th minute with an emphatic volley roughly six yards from goal following a lovely first touch with his head.
The tempo of the match changed considerably in the second period, however, with neither side much of a threat to the opposing goal.
A triple change by Chelsea just past the hour seemed to increase their control over Madrid, who themselves brought on former Stamford Bridge favourite Eden Hazard.
The final chance fell to Madrid in the 89th minute but Varane’s deflected header went just wide, meaning Zidane’s men will need to score in London next week.
What does it mean? Tuchel to fancy Chelsea to get the job done
Even before this game, both Chelsea and Thomas Tuchel boasted impressive records against Real Madrid, having never lost to them in the Champions League.
While that may not necessarily count for much, any psychological boost that provides will be added to following this result, with the Blues seemingly a considerably more accomplished side.
Madrid will hope to have Sergio Ramos and other injured players back next time, but there is a lot for them to improve on here.
Militao stands tall
It was not a great night for Madrid on the whole, but Eder Militao at the heart of their defence did his reputation no harm. Excellent in the previous round against Liverpool, the Brazilian bailed Madrid out numerous times at the back, with his seven tackles more than double anyone else on the pitch, while his three interceptions was a high for Madrid and only Raphael Varane (seven) bettered his four clearances.
What might have been for Werner
Chelsea take a slight advantage home, but it could have been even better. Timo Werner wasted a glorious chance early on and spurned another decent one late in the first half. A draw might be enough for them to finish the job in London, but that first Werner opportunity in particular could be a real regret for Tuchel’s side.
Key Opta Facts
– Madrid have faced Chelsea more often than any other side in all competitions without winning in their entire history, failing in all four matches (D2 L2).
– Only Lionel Messi (36) and Cristiano Ronaldo (35) have scored against more different opponents in Champions League than Benzema (33, level Raul).
– Benzema has scored six goals this season in Champions League and only in one of his 16 seasons in the competition has scored more (7 in 2011/12).
– Madrid have hit the woodwork 10 times (Benzema 5 times) leading both the team and player rankings in this category in the current Champions League season.https://www.youtube.com/embed/jUs6sih-0ak?enablejsapi=1&autoplay=0&cc_load_policy=0&iv_load_policy=1&loop=0&modestbranding=1&fs=1&playsinline=0&controls=1&color=red&cc_lang_pref=&rel=1&autohide=2&theme=dark&
Before these two do it all again at Stamford Bridge next Wednesday, Madrid resume their gripping LaLiga title tussle at home to Osasuna on Saturday, while Chelsea host Fulham the same day.