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 were much better in the second half, we had much more order,” Zinedine Zidane said post-match in comments carried by Diario AS. “They started strong and are very fast. The result is fair. We wanted to push up, one by one, but when that doesn’t go well it’s difficult. After the goal, we improved. We controlled the game more.
“We’re alive, and we’re going for the second game. We’re happy with what we’ve done, in general. We know we’re good at playing on the rivals’ turf, but they’re competitive. They’ve played 16 games without conceding a goal, that’s clear. They’re in the semi-final for a reason. It’s been a very tightly-contested match.”