There’s a reason why football appeals to some of the worst people in the world – the world has nothing else remotely like it – and this sensational match, one in which both sides made incredible comebacks, illustrated that precisely. At the end of it, though, it was Real Madrid who went through to play Atletico Madrid or Manchester City; somehow, football was both the winner and the loser.
In the first half, Chelsea looked an entirely different team to the one that subsided so meekly at home, overpowering Madrid with their physicality intelligence and speed. They didn’t create many chances, but their dominance was such that it was no great surprise when they took the lead on the night, Mason Mount finishing superbly after good work from Mateo Kovacic, Ruben Loftus-Cheek and Timo Werner.
If the first half was good, the second was an absolute brute, and in the best-possible way. Chelsea started it superbly, Antonio Rudiger’s header hauling them level, and though Marcos Alonso had a fine goal disallowed for accidental handball, Werner then did brilliantly to put them in front.
But Madrid weren’t simply accepting their humiliation, and shortly afterwards, Luka Modric arced a geniuses’ cross into the middle, for Rodrygo to caress home a volley with his first touch, levelling the tie.
Though Chelsea finished normal time the stronger, Madrid started extra time well, Vinicius Jr caressing a gorgeous cross onto the head of Karim Benzema, whose finish was characteristically expert. His powerful header sent Real into the last four, while the holders, who will be rueing a terrible first half in the first leg at Stamford Bridge, are out.
Real Madrid are in the last four of the Champions League and will soon win La Liga. But they are not a particularly good football team, and if they play Man City next, they are in big trouble.
But they have a way out. Casemiro, Toni Kroos and Luka Modric are not just great players but together have formed one of the greatest midfields of all time. However, they are now old, and for that reason they struggled to get close to Chelsea for 73 minutes.
That, though, was when Carlo Ancelotti made a triple substitution, and in replacing Kroos with Eduardo Camavinga, changed the flow of the game. Camavinga gave Madrid energy, speed and presence, Lucas Vasquez adding similar when sent for Nacho. The likelihood remains that Madrid eventually run into a better team, but if they are to have a chance, Ancelotti needs to pick a team able to match its opponents physically.
MAN OF THE MATCH
Antonio Rudiger (Chelsea) Dominant in defence, a leader on the pitch, and scored an excellent goal. Deserved to be on the winning side.
Real Madrid: Courtois 7, Carvajal 5, Nacho 5, Alaba 6, Mendy 7, Kroos 5, Casemiro 5, Modric 6, Valverde 7, Benzema 7, Vinicius Jr 7. Subs: Marcelo 6, Camavinga 8, Rodrygo 7, Lucas Vasquez 7, Ceballos 6.
Chelsea: Mendy 6, James 8, Thiago Silva 6, Rudiger 8, Alonso 6, Kante 6, Loftus-Cheek 6, Kovacic 7, Mount 7, Havertz 6, Werner 7. Subs: Pulisic 6, Jorginho 5, Ziyech 6, Saul 6.
Real Madrid have reached their 31st European Cup/Champions League semi-final, at least 11 more than any other side.
15’ – GOAL! Real Madrid (3)0-1(2) Chelsea (Mount) I said that Chelsea only had two scorers, and here’s one of them! He’s so good in big games and this is a delightful finish. Kovacic passes into midifeld, Loftus-Cheek turns around the corner first-time and Werner’s knee sends Mount through the middle! He started out on the left touchline so he’s done brilliantly to get to here, and when the ball sits up for him, he punishes sidefooted and with curl around Courtois! Game on!
52’ – GOAL! Real Madrid (3) 0-2 (3) Chelsea (Rudiger) And there’s the set-piece! Mount swings the corner out, towards the far side of the box, and Rudiger meets it beautifully, moving across the ball to force the angle before butting a superb header into the far corner! That’s his first European goal, and what a time to get it – but where was the marking?
63’ – GOAL! Real Madrid (3) 0-3 (4) Chelsea (Alonso) OH MY DAYS! Mount and Havertz mug Mendy in midfield and Werner moves the ball onto Alonso. He tries a cross with his left foot, it’s blocked back to him, and with his swinger, he absolutely annihilates a brilliant finish into the far top corner!
65’ – THE GOAL IS DISALLOWED!
When the ball rebounded back to Alonso, it ran up up thigh and into his hand. I don’t think the laws should call that handball, but they do and so the ref doesn’t have a call to make.
75’ – GOAL! Real Madrid (3) 0-3 (4) Chelsea (Werner) OH MY COMPLETE AND UTTER DAYS! Werner comes deep and finds Alonso, who finds Kovacic. He slides a clever ball in behind for Werner, who’s down the left of the box, and he sends Casemiro out for an empanada, dipping inside him, cutting across the box to fashio a shooting angle in the process, then he shifts it one more, shoots low, and a flick off Courtois takes it past Mendy on the line! Chelsea are doing it! This is one of the great Eurpean comebacks, and Madrid have 15 minutes to save themselves intense humiliation!
78’ – WHAT A GOAL! Real Madrid (4) 1-3 (4) Chelsea (Rodrygo) WHAT IS THIS! Kante gives it away, Alaba intercepting his lofted pass down the line, and the ball winds up with Modric, 40 yards from goal, left side. He paints the most delicious pass you’ve ever seen, outside of the boot and over Thiago Silva’s head, right onto the inside of Rodrygo’s right boot on the far side of the box, and he allows it across his body before volleying home a saviour’s finish with his first touch! Modric is just a total genius.
96’ – GOAL! Real Madrid (5) 2-3 (4) Chelsea (Benzema) THIS IS ONE OF THE GREAT TIES! WE’VE HAD TWO COMEBACKS! A ball down the left sends Vinicus away, he caresses a lovely cross onto Benzema’s head, Rudiger slips, and the main man plants a expert’s header back across Mendy! Expletive football!
119’ – THIS IS CHELSEA’S CHANCE!
Camavinga clears the corner but only as far as James, who knocks to Ziyech. He drags a shot that’s headed wide, but Jorginho is in its path, his first touch a goodun … but six yards out, he panics, unable to believe how much space he’s in so close to goal, and he pulls a tame shot wide!