Defending champions Real Madrid handily beat Chelsea 2-0 in their Champions League quarterfinal first leg at the Santiago Bernabeu on Wednesday in a match whose final scoreline could have easily been more lopsided.
Chelsea started strong under new caretaker manager Frank Lampard, with Joao Felix and Raheem Sterling going close early on only to be thwarted by Madrid goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois playing against his former club.
However, the hosts grew into the game and went ahead just after 20 minutes when Karim Benzema pounced on a loose ball in front of goal and rolled it into an open net after Kepa Arrizabalaga deflected a Vinicius Junior shot into the Frenchman’s path.
It was Benzema’s 90th Champions League goal with the last 11 all coming against English clubs.
Madrid had eight shots on goal in the opening half and Chelsea will have likely been happy to limp into the dressing room trailing only 1-0 at the break.
Carlo Ancelotti’s side continued to look far stronger than their Premier League opposition as the second half began and Chelsea’s job became even harder ahead of the hour when Ben Chilwell hauled down Rodrygo from behind as he rushed toward goal and was shown a straight red card.
The one-way action became even more pronounced and Madrid soon had their second when Marco Asensio lashed home a shot from the top of the penalty area minutes after replacing Rodrygo in the 71st.
“He looks very good, every game he plays he scores in almost every game,” Ancelotti said of Asensio after the game. “If he starts or comes on, he’s decisive, in any moment he can score or assist.
“Rodrygo takes more risks, he’s more vertical, takes players on, moves without the ball. Marco is good between the lines and has a great shot.”
It was another stellar Champions League night for both Benzema and Vincius, with the latter notching two assists to take his total goal contributions to 11 in European competition this season, second-most behind Erling Haaland’s 12.
“We played well. It’s one of our best games of the season but we have the return leg and we have to stay calm and be strong there, as we were here,” the Brazilian said after the match. “There were a lot of spaces, we always want to score more goals, but we’re playing a great team and we know how difficult it is to play the return leg away from home, that’s why we wanted to score more goals. But we have to stay calm.
“Every player who wears this shirt knows that playing in the Champions League is special, the fans push you, if you play for Madrid you have to want to play in the Champions League.”
Benzema, who scored a hat trick in London last year before getting another in Madrid in a 5-4 aggregate thriller, could have effectively seen off Chelsea in added time at the end of the second half when he headed over with the goal at his mercy after Kepa could only punch the ball as far as him.
Chelsea substitute Mason Mount then came close to a crucial goal for the Blues when he turned and shot in the penalty area but former teammate Antonio Rudiger, also on off the bench, raced in to block.
In the end, the Londoners failed to scored for a fourth match in a row — three of them in the Premier League — their longest barren run since 1993.
Lampard — Chelsea’s top goalscorer who returned to Stamford Bridge for a second spell as coach until the end of the season after Graham Potter was fired this month — embraced Madrid boss Carlo Ancelotti, himself an ex-Chelsea manager, at the final whistle.
“They’re a very good team, but we have to believe,” Lampard told BT Sport, referring to next week’s return leg in London.
For Lampard’s opposite number Ancelotti, the job was far from done despite the decisive first-leg win.
“We have to do it with a complete game like we played tonight, it was a complete game tonight from the start,” Ancelotti said. “The objective was to take the advantage and we have it, but we’ll have to suffer. Chelsea are a good team with good players, we’ll have to fight for another 90 minutes.
“Against 10 men we could have done a bit more, but against 11 we had used a lot of energy, pressing them to win the ball, and after that we lacked a bit of energy and clarity to do better. We have to repeat this game again at Stamford Bridge.”- ESPN