Chelsea earn a point away at Madrid with Tuchel masterclass
Real Madrid drew Chelsea 1-1 in the first leg of their Champions League semifinal in Valdebebas on Tuesday night.
The result gives Chelsea a slight advantage for the return leg.
Chelsea was the better side in the first half after controlling much of the play and creating better chances.
Christian Pulisic had opened the scoring for the visitors in the 14th minute when the forward beat two defenders to a through ball, before jinking past keeper Thibaut Courtois and lifting the ball into the net.
Karim Benzema leveled the score for Zinedine Zidane’s side just before the half-hour mark with an acrobatic volley following a corner.
Real Madrid rarely looked comfortable with the system of three central defenders and two wing-backs and Chelsea picked holes in their midfield and found space behind Marcelo and Dani Carvajal, playing as wingbacks, although they perhaps should have tested Courtois more.
The second half saw Chelsea again looking to pressure Real Madrid high up the pitch, with Marcelo suffering especially as he was caught out time and again.
Madrid tried to take some of the steam out of Chelsea’s energy in the middle of a pouring rainstorm by keeping the ball in their own half, but that was at the expense of any attacking impetus and with just under 25 minutes left to play, Eden Hazard came on against his former club for Vinicius Jr, who was much less effective than against Liverpool in the quarter-finals.
Chelsea also made changes with Ziyech, Kai Havertz, and Reece James coming into the game and the trio gave renewed freshness to Thomas Tuchel’s men, while Zidane reverted to a flat back four with Alvaro Odriozola and Marco Asensio coming on for Marcelo and Carvajal.
Chelsea remained on the front foot in the closing minutes with N’Golo Kante a powerhouse in central midfield as he snapped away at Modric and Kroos, but neither keeper was overly troubled.
Chelsea manager Thomas Tuchel however feels they deserved more away at Madrid only if the players had kept their composure and precision in decision making in the opponents side.
“We played a very strong first half, we should have won the first half,” he said. “Unfortunately we were a bit unlucky and lacked composure and precision in the decision making in the opponents box, but we were very strong in the first half. Unfortunately we conceded a goal from a set-piece, otherwise we defended very strong throughout the whole match.
“I have the feeling that we should have won the first half, that we deserved to win the first half, and that we could have maybe decided this match very early, in the first half-an-hour when we were playing very strong. The second half was a bit of a tactical match and you could feel that we only had two days in-between two away games. Both games were very demanding physically and mentally, so you could feel in the decision making and some ball losses and the acceleration, that we suffered from that today. One more day would have been great for us but it was not like this.
“Now it’s the challenge to, first of all enjoy a free day for the group, and then forget this result, stay focused on the next challenges, go step-by-step, and next week we have to face another challenge against Real Madrid. It will be a tough one because it is the Champions League semi-final, nothing is sure. Even if we had a win here, everything is possible, it’s half-time, and we will need to fight for every centimetre and every advantage that we want to have,” said Tuchel.
Chelsea hopes to complete the job at Stamford Bridge in the second leg of the semi-final tie next Tuesday.