The Blues and Los Blancos played out an entertaining draw in the first leg of the Champions League semi-final. It ended Real Madrid 1-1 Chelsea leaving the tie finely poised.
The Blues will have the advantage of an away goal ahead of next week’s second leg, thanks to Christian Pulisic’s first half away goal.
A lightning quick start from Chelsea resulted in numerous early opportunities before Pulisic opened the scoring by rounding Thibaut Courtois and finishing expertly.
Real Madrid equalised completely against the run of play, through veteran striker Karim Benzema just before the half hour mark, scoring his 73rd Champions League strike by volleying home from close range.
Whilst still exciting and end to end, the second half was a much more reserved affair than the first, containing far less clear cut chances for both sides.
For the first time in his role as Chelsea’s manager, Thomas Tuchel named an unchanged line up, starting the same eleven who secured a 1-0 victory over West Ham on Saturday.
Mendy started in goal, protected by Christensen, Rüdiger and Thiago Silva, who were flanked by Chilwell and Azpilicueta in the wing back positions.
Jorginho and Kanté were given the double pivot role in midfield, with Mount, Pulisic and Werner spearheading the attack. It was a landmark night for Mason, who notched up his 100th Chelsea appearance.
Real Madrid made three changes from their weekend fixture, as Marcelo, Kroos and Vinicius were brought in.
The most significant change by Madrid manager Zinedine Zidane was to set out his side in a back three – mirroring Chelsea and perhaps showing respect to Tuchel’s system.
Chelsea legend Eden Hazard was only fit enough to make the bench, after returning to action at the weekend after a lengthy injury absence. Another former Blue, slightly more disliked in West London than his countryman Hazard, Thibaut Courtois started in goal for the hosts.
On such an important night it was vital that Chelsea started well. They did just that.
Tuchel’s side moved the ball around confidently early on and sprung forward for their first significant attack after six minutes. A counter attack led by Mount resulted in Werner charging forward into a gap, before the German laid it off to Pulisic out wide. Pulisic stood one up towards Chilwell at the back post, however he decided against volleying goalwards first time and the chance was snuffed out.
It was an early warning sign for Real Madrid that Chelsea were to be a threat, particularly on the counter attack.
Four minutes later, the Blues carved out a golden opportunity that really should have seen them take the lead.
Mount, so comfortable in his newly found advanced role, was at the heart of another counter attack as he raced forward, leaving a chasing Modric in his wake as he looked up to find Pulisic in space at the back post. The ball towards the American was inch perfect, before Pulisic brilliantly and unselfishly headed back across goal to Werner, who couldn’t convert from just a few yards out as Courtois thwarted him.
Chelsea had to capitalise on such a dominant start. To waste any more early chances, especially when playing away from home in the Champions League knockout stages, could have a huge impact on the result on the tie.
The next chance was taken.
Allowed time and space on the ball to look up and pick a forward pass, Rüdiger clipped a lovely ball over the top, finding the run of Pulisic. One on one with Courtois, Pulisic remained composed as he left the Belgian on the floor, before rounding him and finishing through two covering Madrid defenders to make it 1-0. A significant away goal that was more than deserved after an excellent first 15 minutes.
Madrid, who’d had a very slow start by their lofty standards, finally threatened the Chelsea goal after 23 minutes. Benzema found a pocket of space between the Chelsea midfield and defence, before turning and firing an effort in from 25 yards that had Mendy scrambling as it clipped the outside of the post.
Chelsea continued to look strong after opening the scoring and had multiple promising attacks soon after without turning them into big chances or shots on goal – albeit before a set piece saw Real Madrid draw level, completely against the run of play.
A short corner was worked out to Marcelo on the left, with the veteran full back afforded time to measure a ball in towards the back post. Varane was waiting to nod it across goal, where Militão flicked it on towards Benzema who made no mistake as he touched it down delicately before smashing a volley past Mendy. Real Madrid 1-1 Chelsea.
All of a sudden it was level, and Chelsea had every right to feel it was undeserved. However, this was a Champions League semi and there would be absolutely no time to feel hard done by – Tuchel’s side had to get their heads up and finish the task at hand.
A team packed full of experience and winner’s medals, Real were massively encouraged by the equaliser and looked a completely different outfit in the moments after scoring.
The Spanish team were now passing the ball around with the confidence seen in Chelsea’s early play, and went close again through Kroos’ long range effort.
The final chance of the half fell to the visitors, as Werner again failed to make the most of a significant opportunity to put his side back in the lead. Pulisic broke through a couple of challenges in his own half, leaving Madrid stretched as Werner was played in down the right. The forward still had a defender between him and the goal, however he opted to shift the ball on to his right and shoot early, firing well wide past the near post.
That meant the scores were level at the break, and for the neutral it had been an enthralling half of football.
For Chelsea, it was a scoreline they probably would’ve taken prior to kick off, however after how the first half played out, Tuchel’s side would be certainly be looking to come away from the first leg with a lead to protect.
HT: Real Madrid 1-1 Chelsea
Werner had had ample chances to get his shooting eye in already, and had another less than two minutes into the second half. An attempted clearance from Madrid rebounded back into his path, however his shot on goal was blocked by Marcelo before it could trouble Courtois.
Despite the early Chelsea shot from Werner, Madrid had started the second half infinitely better than they had the first, looking a lot more assured in possession as Chelsea seemed to struggle to press.
The first 15 minutes of the second half were in stark contrast to the first half. The huge chasms in Real Madrid’s backline were gone as the game took on a much more cagey tone as the clock ticked past an hour.
With 65 minutes gone, both teams made their first changes.
Tuchel opted for a triple change, seemingly acknowledging that his side had started to look a lite leggy. James, Havertz and Ziyech replaced Azpilicueta, Werner and Pulisic.
Meanwhile, Zidane played his trump card as former Chelsea hero Hazard came on to try and break the hearts of those who once sung his name.
Tuchel’s substitutions worked exactly as intended, with Chelsea looking totally rejuvenated after the injection of three fresh players to the cause.
Spaces had just began to start opening up again as the game approached it’s final ten minutes. Chelsea looked menacing on the counter once more, as they tried to press on and find a goal to take a lead back to Stamford Bridge.
As the game entered the closing stages the momentum had shifted again, this time it was with the home side as they had probably their best spell of possession of the entire game. They prodded at the Chelsea back line repeatedly, looking for gaps to exploit as they tried to find a second goal.
The closest Madrid came to that second goal was actually via Chilwell’s face, after a flick on from a corner hit the Chelsea full back and almost bounced in, flashing just wide of the post.
Extra time passed without a great deal of action, meaning the full time whistle went with the score at 1-1.
Full Time: Real Madrid 1-1 Chelsea
Final Thoughts: Real Madrid 1-1 Chelsea
Imagine back in January after we lost to Leicester we’d be moaning about only drawing 1-1 with Real Madrid?
We could have come back to London with another away goal. However, Real themselves will feel they should have scored more than once. It’s finely poised ahead of next week.
It’s advantage Chelsea heading into next week’s second leg, due to the away goal rule, putting Tuchel’s side in a good position to kick on and get through to the final.
Written by Dom Domaingue (@dmdsport)
Edited by Rob Pratley
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