Chelsea 2-0 Real Madrid. No final this year... Here is the immediate reaction. On the way: The player ratings, presser quotes and the post game podcast.
It was good news all around for Madridistas this week after the weekend win allowed Real Madrid to continue to push Atlético for the top spot in La Liga. The seemingly endless cycle of players returning to action continued as Fede Valverde, Ferland Mendy and captain Sergio Ramos made the squad for the semi-final return leg against Chelsea in London. Marcelo also managed to avoid electoral observation duty back in Madrid to make the trip. The chosen line-up appeared as strong as can be, and there was no better stage for it. Eden Hazard made a start for the first time since recovering from injury. Nacho Fernández was given a job to do at right-back, but refreshingly he was the only player in the team not operating in their “preferred position”. After typing that sentence out, it became apparent that Nacho may actually act within a back three with Ramos and Éder Militão, making the game plan far riskier. With Chelsea securing an away goal last week in Madrid and the score ending 1-1, Real Madrid would need to score at least once in order to progress to the final yet again.
Real Madrid sported black socks from the third kit at Stamford Bridge to avoid a colour clash with the home side. I thought this might make the Madrid players look quite slow from the television angle, but they actually glided nimbly around the pitch - enjoying the bulk of possession over the first ten minutes. When they did get the ball however, Chelsea enjoyed a lot of space just like in the first leg. They created the first few chances, and even managed to find the net - but the offside flag denied Timo Werner the opener. Madrid bit back through Karim Benzema who aimed a shot right at the bottom corner, but the Chelsea keeper got a strong hand to it to save the day. This almost immediately led to the first goal of the game, as Timo Werner nodded the easiest goal he’ll ever score into an empty net after Kai Havertz hit the bar. It didn’t change the objective for Madrid who always needed a goal to have the chance to make it to the final. Benzema forced another save out of Mendy at the other end, but Los Blancos were otherwise muted in attack for the rest of the half.
HT: Chelsea (1.41) 1-0 (0.39) Real Madrid— The xG Philosophy (@xGPhilosophy) May 5, 2021
Chelsea began the second half on the front-foot, hitting the bar through a Havertz header with Mason Mount then shooting over. Madrid continued to provide little challenge to the Chelsea defence, but Marco Asensio did give the keeper something to do shortly after coming on with a low shot. Fede Valverde was also introduced, but the hosts remained on top. They sealed the tie late on when Mount tapped the ball past Thibaut Courtois for two. In truth, Madrid looked content with the outcome - and never really looked like they were going to cause Chelsea problems. The game finished with the score at 2-0, and 3-1 on aggregate. Three at the back made the team look shaky from the start and it was surprising to see it carried through to this game. A risk that did not pay off. Focus will now turn to La Liga in a final attempt to finish the season with some silverware. What did you think about the game?