Real Madrid and Chelsea locked horns at the Alfredo di Stefano Stadium in the first leg of the UEFA Champions League semi-final. In what proved to be an intriguing tactical battle, the two sides canceled each other out after an entertaining encounter, as the game finished 1-1 on a rainy day in the Spanish capital.
Chelsea started the game on the front foot and took the game to the home side, as they dominated proceedings in the opening exchanges and created two glorious goalscoring opportunities. Timo Werner — who has been lackluster in front of goal since his big-money move to Chelsea — was denied by Thibaut Courtois from close range, as he inexplicably failed to break the deadlock in the 10th minute.
Thomas Tuchel's side were by far the better team in the first half and deservedly took the lead through Christian Pulisic. Antonio Rudiger saw the American run in behind the Real Madrid backline and played a gorgeous lofted ball, as the former Borussia Dortmund man made his way into the penalty area. He showed immense calmness on the ball and slammed home the opener after maneuvering his way past the Real Madrid goalkeeper.
Chelsea had a handful of chances to add to their lead, with N'Golo Kante enjoying acres of space in the center of the park. However, they were made to pay for their wastefulness, as Real Madrid restored parity through Karim Benzema.
The Frenchman took center stage in a big European game yet again and thundered home a volley from close range after Chelsea failed to clear their lines from a corner.
In what proved to be an entertaining half of football, Zinedine Zidane's decision to deploy Marcelo as a central midfielder out of possession was an intriguing subplot, with Vinicius Jr often dropping out wide to receive the ball in dangerous areas and run at the Chelsea backline.
After the interval, both sides lacked the cutting edge, as Chelsea fizzled out a little bit after an energetic first half. Real Madrid finally grew into the game and threatened to take the lead at home, but Tuchel decided to introduce fresh blood and made a triple substitution after the 60th-minute mark.
However, it was a Real Madrid substitution that grabbed all the attention, as Eden Hazard replaced Vinicius Jr to face his former team for the first time since his move from Chelsea. The Belgian maestro tried his best to make an impact, but the game finished all square, as Chelsea left Spain with a crucial away goal.
As the two sides played out an entertaining draw in Madrid, here are the hits and flops from the game.
HIT - N'Golo Kante | Chelsea
N'Golo Kante was the best player on the pitch by a country mile and stepped up yet again in a big game for Chelsea. In the absence of Mateo Kovacic, the Frenchman started in the center of the park alongside Jorginho and showed his class by contributing to both phases of play.
His menacing runs wreaked havoc in the first half, as he ran the Real Madrid midfield ragged and created a few half chances for the Blues. Kante's box-to-box ability saw the likes of Toni Kroos and Luka Modric played off the park, as the Real Madrid veterans struggled to get to grips with him.
The World Cup winner contested more duels (21) and completed more take-ons (6) than any player on the pitch and could have even had an assist if Timo Werner had his shooting boots on.
FLOP - Dani Carvajal | Real Madrid
Dani Carvajal looked a bit flustered on the right, having started as a right-wing back for Real Madrid. The Spaniard has been hampered by injuries this season and only just returned from a three-month layoff, having racked up just over 60 minutes in the 0-0 draw against Real Betis at the weekend.
Much like his full-back partner Marcelo, Carvajal struggled to make his presence felt and looked tired as the game went by. Chelsea had a lot of joy down the right flank in the first half, as they looked to take advantage of the fact that he looked out of sorts on the night.
The experienced defender was withdrawn in favor of Alvaro Odriozola in the closing stages after failing to make an impact on the game.