Real Madrid took control of their Champions League quarter-final with Chelsea by winning the first leg 2-0 as Ben Chilwell was sent off.
Karim Benzema’s first-half goal had put Real fully in control against a timid Chelsea side led by Frank Lampard and the task become even greater when Chilwell saw red for cynically pulling Rodrygo back just outside the area when through on goal.
The match became a damage limitation exercise for Lampard’s side in order to stay in the tie for the return leg in London but Marco Asensio doubled the Champions League holders’ lead with a low strike that Kepa Arrizabalaga could not keep out.
Chelsea, who were denied a late Mason Mount goal by a brilliant block by former team-mate Antonio Rudiger, remain with an outside hope for next Tuesday’s second leg but will need to score at least twice to keep their season alive – something they have only done four times in their last 22 fixtures.
Lampard said: “Special things can happen at Stamford Bridge – we have to believe. I’ve been involved in nights like that.”
The winners will play Manchester City or Bayern Munich in the last four.
How Chelsea’s season edged closer to ending…
The sides met at the same stage of last season’s competition, with Carlo Ancelotti’s Madrid winning 5-4 on aggregate after a spellbinding second leg.
Real Madrid: Courtois (7), Carvajal (7), Militao (7), Alaba (7), Camavinga (7), Valverde (7), Kroos (7), Modric (7), Rodrygo (7), Benzema (7), Vinicius (8)
Subs: Asensio (8), Ceballos (7), Rudiger (7)
Chelsea: Kepa (5), Fofana (5), Koulibaly (5), Thiago Silva (6), James (6), Kante (7), Kovacic (6), Enzo Fernandez (7), Chilwell (5), Sterling (5), Joao Felix (5)
Subs: Cucurella (5), Mount (7), Gallagher (6), Havertz (6), Chalobah (6)
Player of the match: Vinicius Junior
This clash never sparked into the same levels of excitement with Chelsea clearly lacking confidence in forward areas having failed to score in their previous three games.
Joao Felix could have changed the momentum of this tie after just two minutes but he failed to find a way past Thibaut Courtois when through on goal. Real eventually settled into their stride with Rodrygo and Vinicius Junior winning their battles down the wings.
- Real Madrid: Carlo Ancelotti decided to go with a three-pronged attack with Rodrygo and Vinicius Junior supporting Karim Benzema while David Alaba was preferred to former Chelsea defender Antonio Rudiger.
- Chelsea: Thiago Silva returned from six weeks out with a knee injury for Chelsea, who also recalled N’Golo Kante and Ben Chilwell to the fold.
Vinicius made the telling contribution for the opening goal, sneaking behind Wesley Fofana before testing Kepa with a low finish. The Chelsea goalkeeper could only parry the chance away to Benzema, who has now scored 13 goals in his last nine Champions League knockout phase matches.
That was one of eight shots on target Madrid peppered Chelsea’s goal with in the first 45 minutes as Lampard’s side did well to stay in the game with Kepa showing sharp reflexes to deny Federico Valverde just before the break.
The Londoners’ chances of getting back into the game suffered a major setback in the 59th minute when Chilwell was shown a straight red card for bringing down Rodrygo with a tug of the Brazilian’s shirt when he was bearing down on goal.
Chelsea played in a low block in order to keep the score just one and although Real did not ever throw the kitchen sink at the Blues, they played with a confidence that a second goal was coming.
Asensio had been on the field for just three minutes when he was fed by Vinicius on the edge of the box and the Spain international drilled in a low shot that went through the legs of Chelsea defender Fofana and beyond Kepa’s dive.
Madrid seemed happy with their two-goal advantage in the closing stages as it was Chelsea that almost nicked a dramatic late goal when Mount sneaked into the box but his powerful effort that was heading home was blocked away by Rudiger.
Champions League semi-final draw – reminder…
First legs on May 9 or May 10, second legs May 16 or May 17
AC Milan or Napoli vs Benfica or Inter Milan
Real Madrid or Chelsea vs Manchester City or Bayern Munich
Opta: Lampard’s losing run
- Lampard has now suffered 13 defeats in his last 16 matches in all competitions across spells with Everton and Chelsea this season (W1 D2).
- This was Ancelotti’s 35th UEFA Champions League win in charge of Real Madrid, the outright most of any manager, overtaking Vicente del Bosque (34). They have won 30 of the 31 Champions League games when scoring first under the Italian (D1).
- Chelsea faced 10 shots on target in this match, their most in a UEFA Champions League match since November 2012 against Juventus (13). It was the first time they’d faced 10+ shots on target since August 2019 against Liverpool – which was the second game of Lampard’s first spell as manager, with tonight the second game of his second spell in charge.
- Benzema scored his 30th UEFA Champions League goal under Ancelotti (all 30 with Real Madrid), with the Italian the only manager to have two different players reach that number under his management, with Filippo Inzaghi scoring 33 in 55 games for Juventus and AC Milan.
- Since the start of last season, Vinícius Júnior has 10 UEFA Champions League assists, three more than any other player. He’s been involved in at least one goal in 13 of his last 14 starts in the competition (8 goals, 7 assists).
Up next for Chelsea is Brighton in the Premier League on Saturday; kick-off 3pm.
Meanwhile, Real Madrid travel to Cadiz in LaLiga, also on Saturday; kick-off 8pm.