Chelsea exited the Champions League with a humbling 4-0 aggregate loss to holders Real Madrid as a Rodrygo’s double condemned the Blues to a 2-0 defeat at Stamford Bridge.
Frank Lampard’s side needed to overturn a two-goal deficit from the first leg to have any hope of salvaging silverware from a stormy season but Rodrygo’s opener, scored from close range following a rapid Madrid counter (58), effectively ended the tie as a contest.
The Brazilian then added his second with another simple finish after Federico Valverde had danced through Chelsea’s static defence (80), the goal silencing Stamford Bridge, underlining Madrid’s superiority and setting up a potential semi-final against Manchester City, who hold a 3-0 first-leg lead over Bayern Munich.
Chelsea, beaten in three consecutive games following Lampard’s appointment as caretaker boss, started positively on the night but, in keeping with their season as a whole, failed to take their chances, with N’Golo Kante spurning their two best opportunities.
The Blues, 11th in the Premier League table and 17 points off the Champions League spots with only seven games left to play, now face a season outside of Europe’s premier competition, leaving them with little to play for in the remaining weeks of the campaign.
How Chelsea were outclassed
Chelsea needed to win by at least two goals, something they had only managed twice in their last 20 games in all competitions, which made Lampard’s seemingly conservative team selection more surprising.
Instead of packing his team with firepower, the caretaker boss picked an extra midfielder at the expense of an attacker, with Conor Gallagher starting and Raheem Sterling dropping out.
That left Kai Havertz as Chelsea’s only out-and-out attacker, with Gallagher and Kante playing in unfamiliar roles as advanced No 8s, but the unusual system appeared to flummox the visitors, at least initially, with Chelsea starting positively.
Their best chance fell to Kante following a wicked cross by James, but the Frenchman showed why he typically plays further back, rushing his first-time shot and slicing well wide.
Chelsea continued to threaten, the home fans showing their appreciation for the intensity of their performance, but Madrid soon gained a foothold in the game.
Rodrygo forced a near-post save from Kepa Arrizabalaga, with the evergreen Modric testing the Chelsea goalkeeper from a similar position.
Real Madrid then spurned two excellent opportunities in as many minutes shortly before half-time, with Vinicius Junior first failing to properly connect with Modric’s wicked cross having got in front of Wesley Fofana, and Karim Benzema slashing wide after a rapid counter-attack led by the excellent Valverde.
It was Chelsea, though, who went closest to breaking the deadlock before the interval, with former Chelsea man Thibaut Courtois, barracked by the home fans throughout, pulling off a stunning close-range save from Marc Cucurella at the back post.
That missed opportunity left Lampard holding his head in his hands and there was another soon after the interval, when Gallagher nodded a loose ball down to Kante in the box and the Frenchman again failed to convert, with Militao this time blocking his effort.
Chelsea were incensed when Militao avoided a second booking for a foul on Trevoh Chalobah, but just as it seemed the hosts were in the ascendency, with the home fans fired up by that perceived injustice, Madrid struck the killer goal.
Rodrygo found himself in acres of space on Chelsea’s left-hand side in the build-up, and the 22-year-old was then in the right place at the right time to convert from Vinicius’ unselfish cut-back.
Lampard threw on Sterling, Joao Felix and Mykhailo Mudryk but it was already too late at that point .
Chelsea’s supporters mostly stayed behind to show their appreciation for the team’s efforts afterwards, but this was another crushing defeat in a season of many, and one which effectively ends their campaign with over a month’s worth of fixtures still to play.
Sherwood: Get new manager in now, even beside Frank!
Tim Sherwood on Soccer Special:
“It’s still a big couple of months for Chelsea, because I think they need to get a manager in as soon as possible.
“If they find a manager, they should bring him in, so he gets an opportunity to look at the squad, what he’s got, because there’s a huge clear-out needed here.
“The squad is so disjointed, they have so many players in offensive areas, wide areas, and are pretty similar quality-wise.
“Let a manager come in, let him see them play, train every day, with tough games to come, and then he can make a decision.
“The recruitment has been absolutely shocking, so allow the manager to be part of the recruitment policy. Otherwise you could waste these six weeks, and you start from scratch next year, and the new manager has to get used to the players.
“Use this time! If there is someone out there, out of a job, that they like, bring them in now!
“Frank will understand. He’s gone in there to help them out. I’m sure he’ll hold his hands up and say: ‘Look, there’s nothing to play for now’.
“If there is a manager free to come in now, have the conversation with Frank or even come in alongside Frank and watch from close quarters. They need to do something like that now.”
What’s next for Chelsea?
Chelsea’s scheduled Premier League meeting with Manchester United this weekend is postponed due to their opponent’s participation in the FA Cup, meaning their next game is not until Wednesday next week, when they host Brentford.
Real Madrid, meanwhile, are likely to face Manchester City in the Champions League semi-final, with Pep Guardiola’s side heading to the Allianz Arena for their quarter-final second leg against Bayern Munich on Wednesday with a 3-0 advantage from the first leg.