Chilwell sees red as Chelsea lose in Madrid

As the second night of the UEFA Champions League Quarter-Final 1st leg ties took place, we saw two of Europe’s biggest teams face off at the Santiago Bernabéu. Real Madrid hosted Chelsea in Spain for the third successive season, with the victor of this tie in the past two seasons going on to win the entire competition. With both teams having eyes on Istanbul in June, the stakes could not be higher for either team.

RMA: Courtois; Camavinga, Alaba, Militao, Carvajal; Kroos, Valverde, Modric; Vinicius Junior, Benzema, Rodrygo

CHE: Arrizabalaga; Fofana, Silva, Koulibaly; James, Kante, Fernandez, Kovacic, Chilwell; Sterling, Felix

Having only returned to Chelsea as interim Head Coach in the last few days, Frank Lampard decided to go for an experienced line-up, operating in a pragmatic 5-3-2 line-up, with the three man central midfield looking to directly effect the impact of Kroos and Modric for the Los Blancos on the game, and the pace of Joao Felix and Sterling up top, looking to catch Real out on the counter.

In the opening minutes of the match, this tactic almost paid off with an early break away from Felix, having been played in behind, only to see his shot saved low by Courtois after good work from Eder Militao in defence to catch up to the play and reduce the angle for the Portuguese forward to get his shot off. Not too long after, the away side were in again with Kante playing an inviting cross into the box from the left, only for Alaba have to make a last ditch clearance.

Going the other way, it was quick feet and good body positioning from Vinicius Jr. that would see Wesley Fofana enter the referee’s book early with a sloppy challenge. The young Frenchman being tasked with defending 1-on-1 with one of the best wingers in world football, whilst being on a booking would be a daunting task for the remainder of the match. The home side would soon see one of their own defenders picking up a yellow card, with Camavinga, playing in a left-back position in place of Nacho Fernandez, making a lackadaisical challenge on Sterling.

The Blues were seeing more of the ball and were creating openings through good build-up play, with Enzo Fernandez allowed to dictate play in the midfield. A blocked Benzema shot by Thiago Silva and a Kepa save, low at his near post that was gathered comfortably, the only real opportunity for Real Madrid.

As the first half wore on however, the home team started to up the tempo in possession and Valverde, Modric and Kroos were able to get more involved in the play, but it would be an unlikely source that would eventually create the opening goal of the contest.

Quick as a flash, Dani Carvajal was able to dink a ball over the Chelsea defence and onto Vinicius Jr. outstretched leg. His attempt was parried by Kepa, but the main man for Real, Karim Benzema, was on hand for an easy tap-in for his 90th goal in the Champions League. He probably won’t have scored many easier than that and with only 21 minutes on the clock, Real Madrid were leading 1-0.

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Chelsea did not rest on their laurels and there was almost an instant reply, with a brilliant ball played quickly from Reece James into the area drawing a fine save from Courtois, having ricocheted off one of the Real defenders. The game continued to open up, but this ultimately played into the home side’s hand with the ever dangerous Vinicius Jr. clipping a shot past the Chelsea keeper forcing Thiago Silva into evasive action with an acrobatic goal-line clearance. The remainder of the half saw Real Madrid on top and Chelsea would be pleased to go into the break only one goal down.

Both teams came out for the second period looking to have an impact on the match, with Chelsea pressing high but unable to create any meaningful openings without a direct goal-threat to aim for when in possession. The 54th minute saw the withdrawal of Koulibaly with a suspected hamstring injury, having moments earlier been forced to make a last ditch recovery run from a ball in behind to Rodrygo; Cucurella would be the main to take up his role on the left-side of the back three.

It would be down that left side in the 59th minute where the tie completely changed, with Chilwell caught out of position and making a grab for Rodrygo as he was clear on goal. The referee rightly produced his red card, and Chelsea would have to play the remaining 30 minutes with ten men.

Lampard responded to Chilwell’s dismissal by bringing on Chalobah and Havertz, with the new game plan obvious for the away side – dig in and remain compact, with the focus being damage limitation and to keep the second leg back at Stamford Bridge next week competitive for both sides.

A corner kick routine in the 73rd minute would unfortunately be the Blues undoing, as Marco Asensio – who had only been subbed onto the pitch moments earlier – was picked out on the edge of the box before beating an unsighted Kepa with a low drive.

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The second goal makes Chelsea’s task to overcome the deficit in the second leg an even taller task, as Chelsea’s record goal scorer knows all too well from his playing days. The Chelsea boss introduced Mount and Gallagher in order to transition to a back four, and to hopefully nick a crucial late goal for the Blues.

The dream opportunity for Chelsea would present itself in the dying moments of the game – with Mount controlling the ball effortlessly in the Madrid box, only to see his goalward-bound shot blocked by ex-teammate Antonio Rudiger, who did well to keep Madrid’s clean sheet intact.

As the quarter final reaches the half-way point, Real Madrid will be in a buoyant mood going into the second leg in London with a two goal advantage, but they will be rueing missed opportunities to put the tie to bed. Benzema was able to find the net, but missed a glorious chance to double his tally when his free header was sent over the crossbar. Chelsea have a small glimmer of hope to take back to the Bridge, but in order to progress they will need to conduct a Real Madrid-esque comeback.