Chelsea must overturn a two-goal deficit at Real Madrid to salvage their Champions League defence after Karim Benzema’s hat-trick secured a 3-1 quarter-final first-leg victory over the error-strewn holders at Stamford Bridge.
Benzema dispatched two exquisite headers in three first-half minutes at a rain-drenched Stamford Bridge as Madrid set about avenging last season’s semi-final defeat to Thomas Tuchel’s reigning European champions in perfect fashion.
Kai Havertz grabbed a lifeline for Chelsea before half-time, but it evaporated 46 seconds after the restart when Edouard Mendy vacated his area and played an under-hit pass to Antonio Rudiger, which put Benzema’s hat-trick clinching goal on a plate.
Substitute Romelu Lukaku spurned two chances to reduce arrears as Chelsea’s comeback efforts came up short on a night of acute frustration which ended with the Blues’ Champions League defence hanging in the balance ahead of next week’s return at the Bernabeu.
The hosts’ worst fears were realised on 21 minutes when Vinicius’ third successful take-on against Andreas Christensen ended with the Brazilian floating a cross into the area which Benzema emphatically headed home at the near post.
One quickly became two, with Benzema heading in Luka Modric’s sumptuous cross within three minutes to stun Stamford Bridge and leave Chelsea’s Champions League defence hanging perilously.
Madrid carved out further chances to deepen Chelsea’s plight, with Eder Militao heading straight at Mendy from a corner before Dani Carvajal’s shot squirmed agonisingly under the Chelsea goalkeeper and Christensen desperately cleared.
But having avoided further damage, Chelsea got themselves back into the game five minutes before the break, when Jorginho’s looping cross found the head of Havertz, and his effort evaded the diving Thibaut Courtois.
Chelsea’s hope would last less than a minute after the interval, with Benzema pouncing on Mendy’s moment of madness to intercept his weak pass to Rudiger and complete successive Champions League hat-tricks with a composed finish into the unguarded net.
Match highlights here: