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Chelsea 1-3 Real Madrid: 5 Major talking points from the game

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Karim Benzema scored a stunning treble to put Real Madrid in the driving seat of their Champions League quarter-final tie against defending champions Chelsea.

Having netted a stunning quickfire hat-trick to down Paris Saint-Germain in the second leg of the Round of 16 tie, Benzema took his superb run of form in the competition to Stamford Bridge.

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The Frenchman opened the scoring in the 21 st minute in spectacular fashion, directing a header beyond the reach of Blues goalkeeper Edouard Mendy following a superb run and cross from Vinicius Junior.

Three minutes later and Benzema doubled the lead for the visitors after guiding another stunning header from Luka Modric’s delivery.

Kai Havertz halved the deficit five minutes before the break with a superb finish following Jorginho’s lofted ball into the box.

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However, Benzema restored Madrid’s two-goal advantage in the first minute after the break; completing his hat-trick by taking advantage of a dreadful and uncharacteristic error from Blues goalkeeper Edouard Mendy.

Here are five talking points from the action at Stamford Bridge.

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Brilliant Benzema

For many years, Benzema was the most underrated and underappreciated forward in world football.

Then for a few more years, Benzema was the most appreciated underrated footballer in the world.

On current form, it feels like Benzema is the best footballer in the world.

The Frenchman produced a virtuoso performance at Stamford Bridge, following on his devastating hat-trick against PSG with another against the defending European champions.

The first two goals showed his link-up play, positional awareness and of course, his ability to contort his body and guide powerful headers beyond even the very best goalkeepers.

While the third was a gift, it was a result of his relentless and endless pressing – even more admirable considering his advancing years.

Mendy’s moment of madness

Edouard Mendy’s redemption story at Chelsea has been incredible. Aged 22, he registered unemployed and was ready to quit football before a friend recommended him to Marseille, where he became 4th choice goalkeeper.

Six years on, he kept a clean sheet in the Champions League final as the Blues secured a historic triumph against Manchester City and he was named in the team of the tournament.

The Senegalese shot-stopper helped his nation win their first ever AFCON this year before helping them to the World Cup finals this year, to complement his fine personal form.

Yet he endured a rare moment of madness to gift Real Madrid a third goal on the night.

It should be remembered that PSG goalkeeper Gianluigi Donnarumma made a similar error in the Round of 16 clash against Madrid, who press high against goalkeepers – as they did against Liverpool ’s Loris Karius in the 2018 final.

Mendy’s error may prove to be a highly costly one but after two seasons of superb consistency – Chelsea fans should not be too frustrated.

Courtois’s cold return

Of course, Mendy is the long-term successor of Thibaut Courtois at Chelsea – the Belgian international returned to Stamford Bridge in front of fans for the first time on Wednesday since leaving the club.

Speaking ahead of the game, Courtois spoke of his hope of receiving a good reception from the Blues fans but it was not forthcoming – with his touches relentlessly booed by the home crowd in the opening half. They did not approve of the manner of his exit in 2018, when he secured his long-awaited return to the Spanish capital.

Havertz did find a way past him in the first half but Courtois has continued his ascent to become the world’s best goalkeeper at Real Madrid and he displayed that quality multiple times in this clash – most notable to get his fingers to a rasping Cesar Azpiliceuta effort five minutes into the second half. If Madrid do go all the way in this tournament, the Belgian will have played a key part.

Tuchel’s tactical error

Just as with goalkeeper Mendy, Chelsea fans would be able to count the notable errors from boss Thomas Tuchel on the fingers of one hand.

However, the German appeared to get his setup wrong for this game.

The Blues played a 3-4-3 formation against Madrid’s 4-3-3, giving the visitors an extra player in midfield and Chelsea were frequently caught cold in the transition phases by their opponents in the first half – as they ran through the midfield at will to expose the defence.

A personnel change was required at half-time as Mateo Kovacic replaced N’Golo Kante, but the initial approach had already been punished.

Havertz outshines Lukaku

Kai Havertz has enshrined himself into Chelsea folklore thanks to his Champions League final winning goal against Manchester City last season, but he has maintained his reputation for coming up trumps in big games.

Having netted in the last round against Lille alongside games against Liverpool and Tottenham this season, he is increasingly stepping up to the plate when it really matters.

And he scored against the Spanish giants, superbly controlling Jorginho’s delivery before firing home in a rare moment of joy on the night.

The German international has established himself as Chelsea’s central attacking threat in recent months, ousting Romelu Lukaku.

The Belgian’s struggles were summed up by a missing a golden opportunity after being introduced as a substitute as he failed to guide his header on target from close range

 

 

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