Karim Benzema scored a second consecutive Champions League hat-trick as Real Madrid stunned holders Chelsea to take a 3-1 lead in the first leg of their quarter final at Stamford Bridge.
The Frenchman followed up his tie-winning heroics against Paris Saint-Germain in the previous round with another devastating contribution to leave the Blues on the brink ahead of next week’s trip to the Bernabeu.
Benzema set the tone when he powered home a pair of technically brilliant headers in three first-half minutes to put the Spaniard’s firmly in control.
A shell-shocked Chelsea eventually responded just before the interval through a Kai Havertz header but they were left with a mountain to climb within seconds of the restart.
A howler from Edouard Mendy presented Benzema with a present and he duly rolled into an empty net to gobble up a treble and restore the away side’s two-goal cushion.
Substitute Romelu Lukaku blew a big chance for Thomas Tuchel’s side to reduce the arrears and the let off allowed the La Liga leaders to come through an intense finale unscathed.
Real will now host Getafe on Saturday prior to welcoming the Blues to the Bernabeu for the second leg on Tuesday evening. Chelsea visit Southampton.
A Benzema bonanza. At the age of 34 the evergreen Real forward is enjoying the most prolific campaign of his career. He now has 37 goals in 36 club matches this season and has spearheaded the Spanish giants’ charge towards another La Liga title. But could it be more? A 17-minute hat-trick really caught Europe’s attention to turn the tide against PSG in the Last 16 – and now this.
This treble took his tally to 82 Champions League goals in total and sees him become just the fourth player in history to score more than 80 in the competition. He also joins elite company in establishing himself as just the fourth man to net back-to-back CL trebles alongside Adriano, Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi.
On this evidence he’s proving too hard to stop and while other sides are more fancied to win the trophy, the 13-time winners will be happy to quietly go about their business and stay right in the hunt with a deadly hit-man in the form of his life.
MAN OF THE MATCH
Karim Benzema (Real Madrid). Who else? It seems like the forward has taken on the old mantle of Ronaldo in terms of being a Champions League talisman for Los Blancos. His first two goals were a masterclass in heading and there’s no doubt he adds an X-factor to this Real side who now look firmly on course for the last four.
CHELSEA: Mendy 5, Christensen 5, Thiago Silva 6, Rudiger 5, James 6, Kante 6, Jorginho 6, Mount 6, Azpilicueta 7, Havertz 7, Pulisic 6. Subs: Kovacic 6, Ziyech 6, Loftus-Cheek 6, Lukaku 6.
REAL MADRID: Courtois 7, Carvajal 7, Mendy 7, Militao 7, Alaba 7, Kroos 7, Modric 8, Casemiro 7, Valverde 7, Vinicius Jnr 8, Benzema 9. Subs: Nacho 6, Camavinga 6, Ceballos 5, Bale 5.
10’ – REAL MADRID CHANCE! The visitors break at speed. Benzema’s back heel on the right opens up the play and when Vinicius Jr is allowed to cut inside the hosts fear the worst, but his thumping shot hits the crossbar.
21’ – GOAL! – Chelsea 0-1 Real Madrid. Vinicius Jr plays a clever one-two to escape down the left and clip a cross towards Benzema that the Frenchman brilliantly heads past Mendy at the near post.
24’ – GOAL! – Chelsea 0-2 Real Madrid. It’s Benzema again. The striker peels off Thiago Silva to guide a wonderful header from Modric’s cross into the far corner.
40’ – GOAL! – Chelsea 1-2 Real Madrid. Havertz nods a brave header beyond Courtois from Jorginho’s clipped cross.
42’ – REAL MADRID CHANCE! Real break at speed. Vinicius Jr lays it across for Benzema who looks to slot home from 10 yards out but he puts it just wide. It really should be 3-1!
46’ – GOAL! – Chelsea 1-3 Real Madrid. Hat-trick! Mendy comes out of his goal to mop up a long ball forward but a weak pass is seized upon by Benzema who rolls a simple and highly avoidable goal into the empty net. Disaster for Chelsea.
69’ – CHELSEA CHANCE! Lukaku guides a free header from Azpilicueta’s deflected cross wide of the far post. That was a big, big chance for the hosts.
90+2’ – CHELSEA CHANCE! Ziyech lashes just over the top from Lukaku’s neat lay off.