In what will long be remembered as an all-time Champions League classic on Tuesday night, Real Madrid just about managed to book their spot in the semi-final of this year’s tournament.
While goals from Mason Mount, Antonio Rudiger and Timo Werner might have seen Chelsea take a stunning 3-0 lead at the Santiago Bernabeu, Los Blancos mounted their own late rally.
Eventually watching second-half sub Rodrygo send Tuesday’s remarkable second-leg to extra-time, Carlo Ancelotti’s side saw their leading Ballon d’Or pick once again steal all of the headlines.
As Karim Benzema finally dragged Madrid over the finish line thanks to an action-packed 5-4 aggregate win, we have taken a look at the main talking points.
A domestic & European double for Los Blancos?
Storming their way to a shock 3-1 victory at Stamford Bridge last week and firmly moving into pole position ahead of their Spanish return on Tuesday night, Real Madrid were simply looking to avoid a public banana skin here.
However, heading into March’s international break with a shocking 4-0 drumming at home against bitter rivals Barcelona, many fans around the capital would have felt that history was set to repeat itself once again.
Watching their Premier League opposition storm their way to a 3-0 lead and on the verge of what would be billed as a dreadful collapse, Ancelotti’s men certainly showed their resolve here.
Eventually dragging themselves over the finish line thanks to a remarkable 5-4 aggregate victory, the former Everton boss will still have his sights set on completing a domestic and European double this season.
Gaining a host of plaudits from across Spain since bringing Ancelotti back to the Bernabeu last summer, Madrid might feel that the footballing gods are really shining down on them.
Pulling off another Champions League classic as they mounted a famous second-half comeback against PSG last month, Los Blancos will now have one eye firmly on Manchester City’s second-leg meeting against Atletico on Wednesday night.
Chelsea must take the positives away from heartbreak
While Thomas Tuchel might have played down his side’s chances of pulling off a Spanish miracle ahead of Tuesday’s showdown, the Premier League heavyweights came within touching distance of shocking Europe.
Picking up some perfect momentum last weekend as they stormed their way to a thumping 6-0 win away at Southampton, the Blues were almost in wonderland as they powered to a 3-0 lead on foreign soil.
However, while Chelsea might leave Madrid both exhausted and heartbroken, the former Borussia Dortmund boss was right to praise a brave and gritty display from his squad here.
Watching Marcos Alonso’s second-half strike get controversially ruled out as the ball brushed against his hand, there is no doubt that fans around west London will be wondering what could have been on Tuesday night.
Despite both Kai Havertz and late sub Jorginho wasting golden chances in the dying moments, the now-former European champions must quickly dust themselves down after a night that will be tough to get out of their system.
Now relinquishing their Champions League crown and still dealing with some public issues behind the scenes, Tuchel will know that the FA Cup is now their only chance of lifting another piece of silverware this season.
Who else but Benzema?
Falling 3-0 down in the dying stages and knowing that they needed someone to step up and be their hero, all eyes were on a certain Karim Benzema to drag Los Blancos over the finish line once again.
While the French striker might have hardly had a sniff aside from a second-half header that glanced off Eduard Mendy’s crossbar, the 34-year-old underlined why he is regarded to be Europe’s number one marksman right now.
Sending the Bernabeu into overdrive as he found a way past Mendy just six minutes into extra-time, the one-time Lyon ace has only continued on what has been a remarkable free-scoring run this season.
Bagging a stunning hat-trick as he guided Los Blancos to their first-leg 3-1 victory at Stamford Bridge last week, it was almost written in the stars that Benzema would cement his place as the match-winner once again.
Almost singly handily knocking French giants PSG out of this year’s tournament after yet another famous hat-trick in the Spanish capital last month, Madrid’s record-breaking number nine has really taken the Champions League by storm.
In fact, Benzema’s extra-time decider on Tuesday night is the 12th European strike that he has recorded in just his nine appearances this season.
Real Madrid: Courtois, Carvjal, Nacho, Alaba, Mendy, Modric, Casemiro, Kroos, Valverde, Benzema, Vinicius
Subs: Camavinga, Rodrygo, Marcelo, Lucas, Ceballos
Chelsea: Mendy, James, Thiago Silva, Rudiger, Alonso, Kovacic, Loftus-Cheek, Kante, Mount, Havertz, Werner
Subs: Pulisic, Ziyech, Saul
Goals: Real Madrid: Rodrygo 80′, Benzema 96′ – Chelsea: Mount 14′, Rudiger 50′, Werner 75′
Yellow Cards: Real Madrid: Benzema, Valverde, Camavinga, Carvajal – Chelsea: James, Ziyech, Havertz, Azpilicueta, Tuchel (not on pitch)
Red Cards: N/A
Referee: Szymon Marciniak
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