MADRID — There is no such thing as a most popular option to give up your Champions League crown, however nothing may come a lot nearer than this.
Requested on the eve of Tuesday’s sport how champions bow out of a contest if it must be their time, Chelsea head coach Thomas Tuchel replied: “By not accepting it before it ends. By leaving everything on the pitch that we have and by showing we can work harder, play better, that we know we can take more risks and that we show our true face and live up to our full potential.”
They did simply that. The Blues’ title defence ended on the quarterfinal stage, forcing extra-time right here within the Bernabeu Stadium and profitable 3-2 on the evening however shedding 5-4 on combination.
Chelsea certainly lived as much as their full potential and confirmed exactly what they’re: Herculean in spirit, heroically defiant within the face of adversity, cleverly deployed by one of many sport’s elite coaches however finally flawed within the closing third.
The distinction throughout the 210 minutes was ending. Karim Benzema‘s 96th-minute header was the ultimate aim in an enthralling, breathless evening right here at Estadio Santiago Bernabeu, his fourth of Real’s 5 throughout the tie. The 34-year-old hit the crossbar with an earlier effort and simply 4 pictures all evening, but he was available to ship what proved to be the knockout blow. His particular person xG was 0.58, decrease than Kai Havertz (0.77) and Christian Pulisic, who solely performed the ultimate 37 minutes however missed two superb probabilities to elucidate his xG of 0.61.
Benzema’s scientific contact and a really magnificent help from Luka Modric had been the moments of effectivity Chelsea lacked.
“We are very disappointed and very proud at the same time,” stated Tuchel. “We got beaten by pure individual quality and offensive conversion after our mistakes.
“They didn’t create so much at Stamford Bridge, however they took each half probability and transformed it. This was sufficient. You need to scale back your quantity of errors, and we couldn’t scale back it to an absolute minimal over the 2 legs.
“I think we deserved to go through. We were unlucky, but there are no regrets. These are the kind of defeats you can take with pride and accept as a sportsman.”
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Chelsea amassed 28 pictures on the evening, incomes a 3-0 lead at one stage as they pinned Real again in their very own half with a mix of clever urgent, midfield management and tireless psychological fortitude. There was a component of luck about Mason Mount‘s opener as Timo Werner appeared to not totally imply the improvised cross into his path, however the England worldwide confirmed very good composure to fit a end previous Real goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois.
The 1,000 or so Chelsea followers tucked away within the mid-renovation rafters of this iconic stadium sensed the comeback was on.
Antonio Rudiger headed Mount’s 51st-minute nook into the web to haul Chelsea stage on combination, and when Marcus Alonso thrashed a shot previous Courtois simply after the hour mark, they had been forward within the tie. But VAR dominated out Alonso’s effort for an unlucky however perceptible handball and Chelsea’s progress was briefly checked. Benzema struck the crossbar however nonetheless Chelsea got here ahead.
Mateo Kovacic slipped a Seventy fifth-minute cross via for Timo Werner, who lower inside on his proper foot and steered a shot Courtois may solely divert into the far nook. Real had been curiously passive to that time, seemingly unable to shift gears after making an attempt to comprise Chelsea for lengthy durations however Modric conjured a cross out of skinny air to resurrect their hopes.
Lifting the ball over Thiago Silva with the surface of his proper foot, Modric’s cross fell completely for Rodrygo to steer a sensible end previous Edouard Mendy and set-up extra-time, though not earlier than two Pulisic misses from shut vary, the second appeared worse with every replay as he hooked the ball over the crossbar.
Tuchel had warned within the build-up that Real had a bodily benefit owing to LaLiga’s use of 5 substitutions in contrast with the Premier League’s three, and maybe that contributed to at least one or two drained passes creeping into their play. Chelsea misplaced the ball cheaply, and abruptly Vinicius Junior was in house on the left, checking again earlier than discovering a cross for Benzema to transform in a aim that bore greater than a passing resemblance to the opener within the first leg.
Hakim Ziyech had a shot crushed away by Courtois on the close to publish earlier than Havertz headed broad when unmarked within the field. Jorginho dragged one other effort off track in a frantic finale which left Tuchel directing his frustration in all instructions together with Polish referee Szymon Marciniak for “laughing and smiling” with Real boss Carlo Ancelotti at full time.
Tuchel additionally urged officers lack “courage” to present large choices, one thing he couldn’t stage at his gamers after a efficiency all of the extra resilient given the broader context of uncertainty over Chelsea’s possession following the sanctioning of Roman Abramovich by the U.Okay. authorities and subsequent successfully compelled sale.
The 4 bidders left within the working received an ideal distillation of what they’re shopping for: a extremely aggressive unit that is aware of how one can compete for trophies. However they might additionally see it’s one which wants funding if Chelsea are to proceed to struggle like this.