Real Madrid stole a commanding lead in their Champions League quarter-final tie with Chelsea after Karim Benzema’s hat-trick secured a 3-1 win at Stamford Bridge.
The first warning sign for the hosts, watched on Wednesday night by takeover hopeful Todd Boehly, came after ten minutes when Vinicius Junior hit the post to end what was a strong start from Chelsea.
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Madrid began to find joy attacking into the acres of space being vacated by the Blues, in eerie resemblance to their haphazard display against Brentford on the weekend.
Benzema helped Vinicius break free down the left on 21 minutes and the Brazilian’s cross met his strike partner, who elegantly directed a powerful header in at Edouard Mendy’s near-post.
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Just two minutes later, it was 2-0. Luka Modric clipped in a cross from the right and Benzema again produced a stunning header, directed back across Mendy and into the far-post, for his 36th goal of the campaign.
Chelsea gradually got back into the tie and went into the break with a sense of confidence, courtesy of Kai Havertz’s own header past Thibaut Courtois, which was followed by a miss from the simplest of positions from Benzema.
Thomas Tuchel enthusiastically threw on Mateo Kovacic and Hakim Ziyech for the start of the second-half and yet, only 46 seconds after the whistle, Mendy underhit a pass some 30 yards out of his goal and Antonio Rudiger was too soft on Benzema as the striker stole in to roll home his hat-trick goal.
Courtois denied Cesar Azpilicueta an immediate route back into the tie but the subdued home crowd were waiting for a moment of magic that failed to come quickly – prompting the introduction of Romelu Lukaku from the bench.
The Belgian promptly saw two headers, the latter from a particularly good position, skew off-target as Chelsea continued to create chances but lacked conviction. The defending champions have it all to do at the Bernabeu in six days’ time.
Photo Credit: Getty