The Kings of the Champions League want to win their 14th trophy in the competition despite proposing a breakaway only a few days ago. For Thomas Tuchel, it is a chance for redemption after failing the last hurdle in the 2019/2020 final albeit with his new-look Chelsea side. The blues had never lost to Real Madrid in 4 competitive meetings (2 wins for Chelsea and 2 draws) and Tuchel had never lost to Zinedine Zidane. Thomas Tuchel has not lost an away game since he took over the London club and he was not looking to taint that record yet. Real Madrid are also in good form. Los Blancos were unbeaten in 17 games across all competitions coming into the game.
Madrid were without 4 players due to injuries including talisman and skipper Sergio Ramos whilst Chelsea only missed former Real Madrid man Mateo Kovacic. This would be the first time in 23 odd years both sides would clash in European competition after Chelsea ran out 1-0 winners in the UEFA Super cup back in 1998. The game was poised.
The first big chance went Chelsea’s way. Mason Mount, an ever-present source of danger to the opposition with his elegance, versatility, and hunger for the game, drove to the edge of the box and unleashed a shot. It deflected kindly for Christian Pulisic who put it on a plate for Timo Werner but former Chelsea man Thibaut Courtois made himself big and saved to keep it level. Timo would feel he should have put that one away. 21 big Chances missed now in all competitions.
A few minutes later, Chelsea skipper Ceasar Azpilicueta drove a low cross into the box but Werner couldn’t get on the end of it as they dominated the opening proceedings. The pressure finally paid off in the 14th minute as Antonio Rudiger lofted a beautiful pass over the defense for Christian Pulisic. The American took it around Thibaut Courtois and finished calmly. He is now the first American to score a UEFAChampions League semi-final goal. Chelsea led 0-1. Madrid started to get into their groove. Karim Benzema’s long-range left-footed shot struck the outside of the post. A spectacular effort from the French striker. Chelsea got away with one there as the pressure on him was not enough and he beat Edouard Mendy.
Chelsea found it surprisingly easy to play through the almost non-existent Real Madrid press as the royal whites struggled to come to terms with their 3-5-2 setup. The combinations between N’golo Kante, Azpilicueta, and Pulisic were creating a lot of space out on the right. Jorginho set up a shot for Ben Chilwell after one of those moves but it was on his weaker foot. His shot went wide.
And out of nothing, Madrid were back in the game. Benzema with the acrobatic! The blues seemed to be in control of proceedings until a lapse of concentration as they got caught out with a short corner. Marcelo lofted the ball to the back post, Casemiro with a headed cutback, and Eder Militao helped it on. The ball got to the Real Madrid marksman who controlled and unleashed a thunderous volley into the back of the net and it was 1-1 on 30′. The French international forward drew level with Raul Gonzales as he netted his 71st career Champions League goal in 13 fewer appearances. Only Cristiano Ronaldo, Lionel Messi, and Robert Lewandowski have now scored more. Oh, and no penalties. Living legend. As one fan noted, that was not even a chance for most strikers but he made it stick. What a player!
Real Madrid began finding their rhythm, stringing passes together, and looking dangerous. They did not create anything harmful though. Chelsea wasted opportunities especially on the counter picking wrong passes in the final third but it remained the same. 1-1 at halftime.
Both teams played the cautious game looking to cancel each other out and none went for the third goal of the game. Hakim Ziyech (on for the knackered and battered Christian Pulisic) hit a freekick in a promising position but Courtois gathered cleanly on 78′. Kroos drilled a cross in from the corner and Chelsea target Raphael Varane headed unmarked but it deflected narrowly wide off Ben Chilwell. Chelsea survived the scare. It was a quiet second-half with no change to the first-half score. Both teams were not prepared to risk it. It ended Real Madrid 1-1 Chelsea.
The Blues would feel they should have come away with the win having created more chances especially in the first 20 minutes, but their wastefulness in front of goal prevented what could have been and still could be a memorable win. Stamford Bridge awaits.