Ahead of Tuesday’s crucial clash at Stamford Bridge, the atmosphere amongst the home fans was intense and nervy – with the result in the first-leg leaving the Blues with an uphill task, would Chelsea be able to overturn a two-goal deficit? The main question posed ahead of kickoff was where the goals would come from, as Frank Lampard’s side are certainly lacking confidence in front of goal.
CHE: Arrizabalaga; Fofana, Silva, Chalobah; James, Kante, Fernandez, Kovacic, Cucurella; Gallagher, Havertz
RMA: Courtois; Camavinga, Alaba, Militao, Carvajal; Kroos, Valverde, Modric; Vinicius Junior, Benzema, Rodrygo
Frank Lampard opted for an interesting starting line-up, particularly for a side that needed to score. Organising the side into a 3-5-1-1 formation meant that Chelsea only had one recognised forward on the pitch in Kai Havertz, which seemed a strange decision prior to kick-off. Carlo Ancelotti stuck with the same side that had been so effective at the Santiago Bernabéu last week.
The game started in a fairly cagey manner, with Chelsea intense in the tackle and pressing in parts – but also happy for Real Madrid to have control of possession in more non-threatening areas. The home crowd were vocal in support for their team, particularly in the intense booing whenever opposition ‘keeper and ex-blue Courtois touched the ball.
Big occasions can get to any player, and a couple of stray passes from Modric highlighted that any player can be fallible to a bad game if not switched on and focused – Kante would have wanted to be more alert when a great chance to take the lead came his way in the 10th minute. A first time cross from Reece James found the Frenchman centrally, though he should have done better with the finish.
Chelsea continued the half with high energy and intensity out of possession, with Kante playing as the highest midfielder looking to win the ball back high in an attempt to play into Real Madrid’s penalty area, but neither side could find a meaningful site of goal – bar a post-rattling strike from Rodrygo and a smart stop by Kepa from a Vinicus Jr shot. The Spaniard was called into action again in the 31st minute, after a quick throw in from the right and lovely run and shot from Modric which was saved smartly, and the resulting corner came to nothing.
The bulk of Chelsea’s main attacking threat was provided by Reece James down the right-hand side, with the wing back looking dangerous all evening – though there was momentary concern in the 38th minute as he pulled up with a potential hamstring issue, but he was fine to continue.
It would be great work from the Englishmen that would generate the best chance in the half, with a great cross into the area in injury time allowing Cucurella to have a clear shot on goal that was impeccably saved by Courtois at close range. The Belgian responded well to the chorus of boos by turning to the Matthew Harding Stand and kissing the Real Madrid Badge following that spectacular stop.
After the half time break, there was only one change from both teams, with David Alaba withdrawn for for Antonio Rudiger. It was Rudiger’s centre back partner Eder Militao that would take the impending Chelsea onslaught firmly on his shoulders, making last ditch blocks and borderline tackles in order to keep the home side at bay – but by and large, the Blues were reduced to wild shots and it was poor delivery from set pieces that ultimately let them down.
Chelsea were in the ascendency but it was at that exact time that the tie got away from them for good. Completely against the run of play, Militao played Rodrygo in on the break – forcing Chalobah to dive in, but Rodrygo’s pace managed to get him in behind. The Brazilian played a ball across to Vinicius Jr, who then calmly played the return pass which was turned into the net by Rodrygo. 1-0 on the evening, 3-0 on aggregate – it’s safe to say that the tie was officially over.
Lampard responded with a flurry of substitutions in the 66th minute with Felix, Sterling and Mudryk brought on for Gallagher, Enzo and Cucurella respectively. For a team that had only scored once in the last three games, it did have a sense that the writing was already on the wall for this UCL campaign.
This feeling was compounded by Karim Benzema being subbed off for Aurelien Tchouameni in the 71st minute. It had been a quiet night for the forward, but his impact was certainly felt last week.
It was Los Blancos that had the last laugh with a Brazilian double on the King’s Road from Rodrygo. Vinicius Jr and the sensational Federico Valverde combined, and the Uruguayan’s composure saw him dribble past two Chelsea defenders and lay the ball off for Rodrygo to complete his brace and double Chelsea’s deficit on the night.
It was a solid display for Chelsea in parts, but ultimately they were totally outclassed over 180 minutes, suffering with the same issues that have plagued them all season – they simply can’t take their chances when they come their way. Real Madrid move onto the semifinals in a jubilant mood, where they’ll face most likely Manchester City in what could be a spectacular affair.