Karim Benzema stole the show with a hat-trick, while Andreas Christensen endured a torrid game as Real Madrid beat Chelsea 3-1 in the UEFA Champions League.
In perhaps the biggest match of their season, Chelsea started brightly, with Kai Havertz coming close five minutes in. But soon enough, Real Madrid got into their groove and started posing problems, with Vinicius Junior, especially, wreaking havoc.
The Brazilian came close to scoring when he clipped the crossbar with an effort before producing a lovely cross for Karim Benzema, who headed home brilliantly to make it 1-0 in the 21st minute. Three minutes later, Real Madrid were two goals to the good as Benzema, once again, rose to head a fine deep cross from Luka Modric, leaving Chelsea stunned.
The Blues, however, slowly recovered and found their way back in the game when Havertz found the back of the net after getting on the end of Jorginho’s pass. Benzema could have completed his hat-trick before half-time, but the Frenchman spurned a great chance after being set up by Vinicius.
However, he did not have to wait for long to rectify his mistake. Minutes into the second half, a horrible error from Edouard Mendy presented the Real Madrid hitman with a golden opportunity, and he made it count to restore the visitors’ two-goal advantage. Cesar Azpilicueta came close for Chelsea not long after, but his former teammate Thibaut Courtois stood in the way.
Chelsea kept pushing for a way back in but could not find a way through, although they could have made it 3-2 late on, only for Romelu Lukaku to miss a sitter. The result leaves Thomas Tuchel’s men with a mountain to climb in the second leg at the Santiago Bernabeu. Here are our player ratings for bith sets of players after Wednesday’s encounter.
Edouard Mendy: 4/10
The Chelsea goalkeeper had no chance of stopping Benzema’s brilliant headers in the first half. But he ended up gifting the Frenchman his third by under-hitting a pass right into his path in the second half.
Andreas Christensen: 3/10
Exposed to the dangerous Vinicius Junior on his side as Reece James played in a much higher position, the Danish defender was torn to the shreds by the Real Madrid winger. Christensen was constantly beaten for pace by the Brazilian, who ran him ragged. He was dragged out of position for the first goal, caught on the wrong side for the second and hauled off at half-time.
🚨| Thomas Tuchel on Andreas Christensen's struggles vs Vinicius Jr:
"Yes, my mistake."
How many games will Tuchel play Christensen for the rest of the season after a performance like this? 🤭 pic.twitter.com/LSy3WiXwpK
— Andreas Korssund 🇳🇴 (@kors_andreas) April 6, 2022
Thiago Silva: 6/10
Not at fault for the first goal, but the veteran Brazilian was caught under the ball as Benzema bundled in the second goal for Real Madrid. Silva was his usual reliable self at the heart of the Chelsea defence for the rest of the match. He did not do much wrong as he made several recoveries and passed the ball well.
Antonio Rudiger: 5/10
An early booking meant that the German international had to walk the disciplinary tightrope for the rest of the game. Even though most of Real Madrid’s attacks came from the opposite side, Rudiger did not inspire confidence the way he usually does. He could have reacted better to Mendy’s poor pass leading to Benzema’s third.
Reece James: 5.5/10
Back into the lineup, the Chelsea academy graduate was an outlet down the right-hand side but failed to provide defensive protection to Christensen in the first half. He did test Thibaut Courtois once and played a couple of decent crosses. James was much more reserved after the half-time break when he was deployed as a traditional right-back rather than a wing-back.
N’Golo Kante: 4/10
The French midfielder had won the Man of the Match award in both of Chelsea’s meetings against Real Madrid last season. However, he was nowhere near that level on Wednesday as the visitors easily outmanoeuvred him in the middle of the park. Kante did not shield the backline and failed to make an impact when on the ball. Tuchel took him off at half-time.
🗣 "This tie is not alive."
Thomas Tuchel gives an honest assessment after Chelsea's 3-1 loss to Real Madrid pic.twitter.com/NAQAW3357A
— Football Daily (@footballdaily) April 7, 2022
Like his partner, Jorginho found himself being overrun in the centre of the park by a superior Real Madrid midfield trio of Luka Modric, Casemiro and Toni Kroos. He did produce one moment of quality, setting Havertz up for Chelsea’s goal with a perfectly-weighted clipped ball. While he was not at fault for any of the goals, he did not do enough to stem the flow of the visiting side.
Cesar Azpilicueta: 6/10
Deployed at left wing-back in the first half, Azpilicueta was defensively solid for the most part and continued his good work after slotting in at left-back after the half-time break. He also came close to scoring, only to be denied by a stunning save from Thibaut Courtois. The Spaniard also created the chance for Romelu Lukaku, which the Belgian missed.
Mason Mount: 6/10
No lack of effort from the English international who pressed the Real Madrid players from the front to force turnovers. However, on the ball, he did not bring the usual quality he does, failing to create any notable chances. Mount did come close to scoring from a long-range effort in the second half.
Christian Pulisic: 5/10
Given the nod ahead of Hakim Ziyech, the USMNT international hardly made any impact on the proceedings. One or two driving forward runs aside, Pulisic did little of note and was subbed after the hour mark.
Kai Havertz: 7/10
Kai Havertz has recorded a goal involvement in each of Chelsea’s last four knockout rounds.
Even in defeat, his growth is obvious 📈 pic.twitter.com/s4NlHwT1q4
— GOAL (@goal) April 7, 2022
Havertz showed why he is preferred over Romelu Lukaku and Timo Werner with a battling performance at the top. He was always eager to press the opponents high up the pitch and looked a threat with his movement. He gave Chelsea hope with a brave diving header to make it 2-1. The German continued to fight after the break but could not inspire a comeback.
Mateo Kovacic: 5.5/10
The ex-Real Madrid ace replaced Kante at half-time and offered a bit more composure and assurance in possession without really changing the course of the game a great deal.
Hakim Ziyech: 5/10
Ziyech came on for Christensen in the second half. The Moroccan failed to create much of note, much like Pulisic.
Ruben Loftus-Cheek: 5/10
The Chelsea academy product replaced Jorginho in the 64th minute. Loftus-Cheek added energy and physical presence in the middle of the park.
Romelu Lukaku: 4/10
Lukaku had a gilt-edge chance to score after coming on but failed to direct his free header on target.
Thibaut Courtois: 7/10
COURTOIS IS NOT REAL pic.twitter.com/rVavZm3AcS
— ً (@idoxzi) April 6, 2022
Back in his old home, Courtois was constantly jeered by the Chelsea supporters, but he did not let that affect his focus. The Belgian made a good stop to keep James’s free-kick out but could not deny Havertz. However, he pulled off a spectacular save to stop Azpiliucueta’s strike.
Dani Carvajal: 6/10
The Spaniard was brought back to the lineup at right-back in place of Lucas Vazquez. He looked up for the challenge, as he carried the ball forward well and defended stoutly for the most part. But Carvajal was caught out for Havertz’s goal.
Eder Militao: 6/10
A so-so display from the Brazilian who was not quite at his best on the night. An early booking after a tangle with Havertz means he will be suspended for the second leg. Militao kept things in check at the back, although he was guilty of conceding possession cheaply at times.
David Alaba: 7/10
Yet another impressive display from the summer signing as he was strong and resolute at the back for Real Madrid. Alaba positioned himself well throughout the game to cut out any threats and offered composure when on the ball.
Ferland Mendy: 6/10
The Real Madrid left-back had some issues in the first period against Reece James but did not give in and battled hard. He looked much more comfortable up against Ziyech after the break. Mendy did not offer much in the attacking sense, however.
Luka Modric: 7.5/10
Modric covered 10.95km tonight for Real Madrid, a team high ⚪️🏃♂️
A gentle reminder that he's 36-years-old 👏💪 pic.twitter.com/UERK9FdmCl
— LiveScore (@livescore) April 6, 2022
Another big-game performance from the wily veteran who rose to the challenge against Chelsea. Modric was not shy of doing the grunt work in the middle of the park while he showed his quality every time he got on the ball, in particular, with the assist for Benzema’s second goal with a sumptuous deep cross.
The Brazilian international did what he does best as he constantly disrupted Chelsea’s attempts to play through the middle, especially in the first half. Casemiro made several key tackles and recoveries over the course of the game, although his passing was a bit on and off at times.
Toni Kroos: 6.5/10
A middling display from the German international, who did what was needed of him without really standing out or stamping his authority in the way fans have grown accustomed to. Kroos has not been at his best for a few weeks now, and it could be a growing concern for Real Madrid.
Federico Valverde: 7/10
Shunted out on the right flank, the Uruguayan central midfielder showed his qualities again as he put in so much work throughout the game, closing down spaces, pressing the opponents, recovering possession, and also creating a couple of chances. He might not always stand out on the pitch but the importance of the efforts he puts in for the team cannot be overstated.
Karim Benzema: 9/10
Iker Casillas with all the praise for Karim Benzema 👑 pic.twitter.com/4J167dxA6f
— B/R Football (@brfootball) April 6, 2022
The most in-form striker in the world currently delivered once again for Real Madrid as expected. Benzema produced two top-quality headed efforts to put his team in front in the first half and could have completed a hat-trick within the 45 minutes if not for a surprise miss. He made amends early in the second period to make it 3-1 and put Los Blancos in the driver’s seat in this tie. Absolutely top-notch.
Vinicius Junior: 7.5/10
The Real Madrid speedster ran Christensen ragged with his pace and directness. He came close to scoring, with his effort striking the crossbar before setting Benzema up for the opening goal with a good-looking cross. At the same time, Vinicius also tracked back regularly to help Mendy out defensively.
The defender came on for the injured Eder Militao in the 64th minute. He did his job against the Chelsea forwards.
Eduardo Camavinga: 6/10
On for Kroos with a little over 15 minutes left. Composed on the ball, helped keep possession.
Gareth Bale: N/A
Late substitute for Benzema.
Dani Ceballos: N/A
Late substitute for Valverde.