Ben Chilwell’s red card cost Chelsea dearly as they were beaten 2-0 at the Bernabeu by European champions Real Madrid. Frank Lampard’s side were already one goal down on the hour mark as Karim Benzema struck against them for the second successive season, but Chilwell’s decision to tug back Rodrygo when he was through on goal was short-sighted.
The England man was shown a straight red card and Lampard was forced to take off both of his forwards in a bid to escape the Spanish capital with a one goal deficit, but Madrid’s pressure paid off as substitute Marco Asensio converted a second from a corner. But the manager’s tactical decisions when his side went down to ten men, and then two goals down, came in for some criticism.
Kalidou Koulibaly went off injured before either major second half incident and Marc Cucurella was thrown on at left centre-back. After Chilwell’s red, Chelsea quickly switched to a back four before Joao Felix and Raheem Sterling were both taken off in a move back to a back five.
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After the second went in, Thiago Silva was sacrificed as they went to a four, as Mason Mount and Conor Gallagher came on to bring energy to midfield. If Chelsea had conceded again, that decision would have been scrutinised, however the Blues escaped with just a two goal deficit.
It felt like a night where Carlo Ancelotti’s men could have well and truly put this tie to bed on home soil. As it stands, they still have a fighting chance against the most dominant team Europe has ever seen. Yet the night started with such promise and even in the closing stages they tried to pull one back as Mount almost bagged a goal back.
Joao Felix, who showed glimpses of his quality on his return to Madrid broke away early on only to see his low effort saved as Chelsea targeted rapid counter attacks in their solid 5-3-2 shape. However, once Los Blancos had settled, they began to dominate.
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The opening goal came from one direct pass. Wesley Fofana was caught out by a ball over the top, and Vinicius Jr poked a volley towards goal. Although Kepa managed to stop the initial effort, Benzema was on hand to tap the rebound in and give the 14 time champions the lead.
The Frenchman has been the standout player in this competition over the past three seasons, has now scored 11 goals in eight matches against English teams over the last year and looks likely to play a big role in the closing stages of the Champions League once again. But Chelsea attempted to fight back, even if ultimately they were left goalless for the fourth consecutive game for the first time since 1993.
Seconds after conceding however, Chelsea nearly levelled. Reece James fired in a cross and Raheem Sterling saw his close range effort tipped past the post by Courtois. It was one of the only times the Belgian giant was tested, as Madrid put one foot in the semi-finals.
The Chilwell red card ended any hope of Chelsea getting a result on the night and Asensio’s goal made life a lot tougher. Given their goalscoring record of late, they’ll need a Stamford Bridge miracle to make it to the semi-finals.
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