men the most adverse scenario, at the home of the European champions, Real Madrid uncorked the bottle and began to play football as if it didn’t cost anything. An impact victory, of unquestionable prestige that bears the signature of Karim Benzema, the best player on the continent today. Precise, incisive, undetectable, author of another consecutive hat-trick after the miracle against PSG. But along with him appeared an extraordinary team, vast resources in all its lines, from the winger with Vinicius to the always miraculous glove of Courtois. Chelsea fell with honor, finishing almost twenty times, with Havertz as the best footballer, but the impression was the opposite of last year.
It may have had to do with the inclusion of Fede Valverde on the right wing. Not extreme, because with the ball he was a striker and without it he was a defender. The fact is that the white team that succumbed less than a year ago without an audience put together a splendid game, with fast play and supportive retreat, essential to beat a very strong team like Chelsea, tactically and physically.
Ancelotti’s plan was aided by the choice of Tuchel, with Christensen at right centre-back, James released and Azpilicueta in the left-handed lane. Vinicius benefited, who poked around the side that closed the future Barça center-back. Although the first warning was a long ball from Kant that left Havertz hand in hand with Alaba, well covered by the Austrian, Madrid was a hammer from the start. A steal by Valverde activated Benzema and the counter led Vini to the opposite side. He broke inside and finished off the crossbar. In an error by James, Vini was planted in the area and he did not hit the resolution. There were no more warnings.
Presumably there will no longer be Benzema’s detractors among Real Madrid fans. He is accused of not being a battering ram to use, an area player. In three minutes he disproved such a theory. First he combined with Vinicius on the wall, the Brazilian went as a winger, served back and Karim’s powerful header exploded like thunder in the squad. Chelsea did not react, losing the ball and consenting to the long white attack. Modric picked it up, served across the area and Benzema, back, adjusting his head, cushioned the shot to adjust it next to the post. 0-2. Imposing.
Madrid may have been guilty of being conformist then, by attracting Chelsea with the ball played. Hesitantly, the blues crept in, aided by some inaccuracy in playing and by Havertz’s ability to appear where he was not expected. It is true that Carvajal was able to extend the account by going on a counterattack and appearing as a battering ram. Sack Mendy with the mitten. But the German from Chelsea managed to dodge Carvajal’s vigilance (and kick) and head it powerfully into the net.
In those final five minutes of the first act, Madrid had no luck. Because Benzema forgave the third after another action by Vinicius, in an easy shot. The lost fortune then returned to the minute of the second half, when Benzema returned to chase an impossible (as with Ulrich, Karius or Donarumma), caused the blunder of Mendy, the one from Chelsea, and Rudiger to score on an empty goal. Who knows if Tuchel’s decision with the double change to close with four and withdraw Kant for Kovacic favored the local confusion.
The landscape was perfect for Madrid, and for a long time they were masters of the game. Chelsea did not arrive and the Whites did not lose the ball, although it did not clearly reach the enemy area. The ‘blues’ gave signs of danger in isolated plays, such as Azpilicueta’s impressive shot to the top corner that required the services of Courtois, a giant. Despite the institutional lack of definition, Chelsea have a first-rate squad, and Lukaku’s entry along with Militao’s departure due to injury altered the game. The huge Belgian striker anchored himself in the area and connected two headers on goal, one very clear. Both diverted.
Ancelotti relieved Kroos, generous in the pressure, and brought in Camavinga to refresh the core. White’s problem was that he stopped threatening the counterattack, inviting Chelsea to go up. By surprise, Ancelotti ordered Bale to come in to do with Madrid what he had already done with Wales. Benzema left with no more applause than that of the white fans. Stamford Bridge is less than San Mams. Valverde also had to leave, cramped after a brutal beating. I put Chelsea balloons to discount in the final stretch. I resisted the best Madrid of the season, at a level that invites its fans to dream. I’m sure that Chelsea press at the Bernabu, and they would do well not to trust and remember what happened with Juve after that 0-3 at Turn, but Madrid has one foot in the semifinals.