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.
HIT - Karim Benzema | Real Madrid
Unsurprisingly, Karim Benzema was Real Madrid's standout player on the night, as has been the case so often this season. The Frenchman worked tirelessly even as Chelsea dominated proceedings in the first half, as he led the press from the front and attempted to make things happen.
His thunderous left-footed drive from outside the penalty area clipped the edge of the post, as the ball flew past the despairing dive of Edouard Mendy. Moments later, he did get his name on the scoresheet, as he controlled the ball expertly with his head and lashed a venomous volley into the roof of the net to restore parity.
Even as the game fizzled out, Benzema was full of running and looked to add to his tally, as he produced Real Madrid's only shot on target of the night with his goal.
Flop - Timo Werner | Chelsea
Much has been said about Timo Werner's struggles in front of goal this season, with the German international delivering a series of underwhelming performances since his move from RB Leipzig. Despite his poor form, he was rewarded for his winning goal against West Ham United at the weekend with a start against Real Madrid, as he led the line for Chelsea away from home.
However, he failed to vindicate Tuchel's trust in him, as he fluffed a gilt-edged opportunity to break the deadlock in the first half. Werner found himself in space inside the penalty area but somehow failed to make the net bulge, as Courtois thwarted his effort from point-blank range.
He never really recovered from his disastrous miss and was withdrawn after the 60th-minute mark in favor of fellow new signing Kai Havertz.
HIT - Christian Pulisic | Chelsea
Christian Pulisic was chosen to lead the line alongside Timo Werner, with Mason Mount playing in an advanced midfield position behind the two attackers. The American winger repaid Tuchel's faith in him with a well-taken goal in the first half to open the scoring on the night, as he calmly put the ball into the back of the net after sidestepping Real Madrid goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois.
Los Blancos struggled to deal with his pace and energy, as the home side had no choice but to bring him down on a few occasions at the cost of a few cheap free-kicks in dangerous areas. Pulisic's pace and dribbling ability was on show particularly in the first half, as he proved to be Chelsea's best attacker on the night.
He was withdrawn with just under 30 minutes left on the clock, as Tuchel opted to freshen things up by introducing Hakim Ziyech for the last quarter of the game.