“Chelsea toyed with Real Madrid as if they were playing against one of the minnows in European football. The Blues could have scored more and handed the Los Blancos a humiliation. It was one of the best displays in this event for Chelsea, while Real Madrid would love to forget it”
Chelsea played very well at the Alfredo Di Stefano Stadium and credit must be given to the unit of Zinedine Zidane for exhibiting compactness – the same was required at Stamford Bridge but Real Madrid lacked the edge and were outplayed from the start to the finish by the blues who have been improving under Thomas Tuchel since he took over the job. A place in the final for the Blues was unthinkable a few months back, but right not it would be Chelsea and not Real Madrid who would face Manchester City at Istanbul.
It was the semifinal of the UEFA Champions League and when Real Madrid feature in the semifinals and finals of this showpiece event then they are a different kettle of fish – the Los Blancos change their colours, storm into the final, and lift the trophy. And in this season, the way Zidane and Real Madrid fought the adversities, yet another glorious comeback could not be ruled out.
Until the 85th minute of the game, the fear persisted despite the Los Blancos being battered – Tuchel knows about Real Madrid’s moments of individual brilliance, and with someone like Karim Benzema around, anything was possible.
N’Golo Kante won the ball high up from Nacho Fernandez and fed the substitute Christian Pulisic, who passed up the opportunity to shoot and crossed low – Mason Mount rammed it home. With five minutes remaining still along with added time, still, the fears were over because this Real Madrid unit might possess the abilities to produce unique individual moments, but at Stamford Bridge, they were drained out and pushed on the back foot by a much-more superior unit, who took the field with the intention of traveling to Istanbul.
Prior to this, Chelsea had lost five of seven semi-finals, and this time – no more hiccups.
As the Real Madrid players left the field with a sad face and heads down, there was a sense of relief and joy at the opposite end.
Zidane decided to apply the 3-5-2 formation instead of 4-3-3 and it backfired.
Sergio Ramos was at the heart of the defence with Nacho and Eder Militao standing wide left and right – this made the backline vulnerable against counterattacks and even Zidane knows how weak Real Madrid have been during transitions, still, he gambled.
Casemiro or Luka Modric had to run back and aid the defenders.
When Militao received the ball Mount would drop deep and join the midfield to create a 3 vs 3 situation – the pressure was always on Real Madrid. This prompted Vinicius to run down the right – a position where he does not play but had to because of Eden Hazard – with the intention to receive the ball from his Brazilian counterpart. Ben Chilwell was solid enough to track Vinicius.
Modric moved into that right position and guess what, Kante and Jorginho were at their very best – Modric was tracked down. Kante, yet again, was everywhere on the pitch. He was the lynchpin of this Chelsea unit. At the center of the park he shut down Real Madrid and he was not all about an immovable object, rather, injected mobility whenever his team needed that – no wonder, he was at the heart of the two goals.
Madrid had more of the ball in the first half, but that was all they had to smile about, with Chelsea breaking the deadlock before the half-hour mark.
Ramos was exposed for the goal, left on his backside by Timo Werner, and unable to catch up with the Germany international, who headed home after Kai Havertz’s chip beat Thibaut Courtois and bounced back off the crossbar.
Werner had already seen another goal ruled out for offside, and even he could not fail to find the net from such close range.
Karim Benzema twice came close for Madrid, forcing Edouard Mendy into two fine saves, but beyond that, Real Madrid offered nothing, absolutely nothing at all.
Hazard showed up again and Madrid lost again – it was surprising to see Hazard in the lineup. Zidane loves to gamble but gambling with someone like Hazard, who has passed his best, did not make any sense. Hazard has become a liability for Real Madrid and the time has come to think about his future seriously. He offers nothing.
After digesting the first goal, Zidane was required to change the formation, but when he did it was too late.
Chelsea toyed with Real Madrid as if they were playing against one of the minnows in European football. The Blues could have scored more and handed the Los Blancos a humiliation. It was one of the best displays in this event for Chelsea, while Real Madrid would love to forget it.