Real Madrid welcomed Chelsea to Valdebebas this evening for the first leg of their Champions League semi-final and drew 1-1. It was the first time they’ve ever faced the London club in Europe’s elite competition, and went into the game keen to set themselves up nicely for the return leg at Stamford Bridge. The visitors return to London with a precious away goal, but the tie’s very much in the balance.
Chelsea, revitalised since Thomas Tuchel took over, took the lead in the 14th minute. Antonio Rudiger played a high ball over the top to catch out the Madrid defence and give Christian Pulisic space. The Chelsea man became the first American to score in the semi-final of the Champions League, turning Thibaut Courtois before finishing neatly.
The Londoners’ lead didn’t last long. Madrid got back on level terms in the 29th minute. Toni Kroos played a short corner to Luka Modric, who fed Marcelo. The Brazilian dropped the ball to the back post, where Casemiro sent it back across goal. A scramble ensued, but Karim Benzema seized an opening and directed a stunning overhead kick past Edouard Mendy and into the back of the net to earn Madrid an important draw.
“We knew it could happen [that Madrid could fail to win], but there’s another game [to be played],” Marcelo said post-game in comments carried by Marca. “We’re fine and we know what we have to do. The second leg will be different. We don’t choose the rhythm of the game, we have to adapt to what it is. We’re well and we’re calm.”
Marcelo was appreciate of Benzema’s contribution, but underlined the importance of the collective. “The team is more than 25 players,” he said. “We’re working hard every day. I’m happy that Karim scored, but above all we came out with our heads up. We’re working hard, doing things we think we can do well. Real Madrid will always fight to the end.”