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Karim Benzema's overtime winner breaks blues hearts

Goals from Mason Mount, Antonio Rüdiger and Timo Werner sent Chelsea from a 3-1 deficit to a 4-3 lead overall; Rodrygo forced extra time after completing Luka Modric's wonderful pass; Vinicius Jr. and Karim Benzema met again in overtime to break Blues hearts (Author: Gardener)

Karim Benzema'sKarim Benzema was Chelsea's tormentor again as his extra-time header earned Real Madrid a place in the Champions League semi-finals with a 5-4 aggregate win. On a thrilling night of football at the legendary Santiago Bernabeu, the west Londoners went from 3-1 down to 4-3 on aggregate thanks to an impressive comeback before Real's late Rodrygo equalizer forced extra time. Mason Mount swept Chelsea ahead after 15 minutes to give the Blues a deserved half-time lead before Antonio Rudiger and a brilliant solo goal from Timo Werner gave Thomas Tuchel's brave side the overall advantage. Before Werner's goal to make it 3-0, Chelsea also had a goal from Marcos Alonso, ruled out by VAR for a handball under construction, but the Blues were held back when a stunning pass from Luka Modric was met by substitute Rodrygo, who fired from close range distance in overtime. It was Vinicius Jr and Karim Benzema who came together again in added time - just as they did to devastating effect in the London first leg - with the latter scoring his fourth goal of the clash and securing Carlo Ancelotti's side a place in the final four. Needing at least a two-goal win to stay alive in the Champions League, Tuchel continued with Ruben Loftus Cheek in the role he assumed in the weekend's 6-0 win at Southampton - and it was 26 year old who played an important supporting role in Chelsea's opener in the first half. Loftus-Cheek was involved in a quick midfield switch with Mateo Kovacic and Werner that saw the ball come to Mount on the edge of the box, with the England international sweeping an attempt past Thibaut Courtois to stun the Bernabeu. Just before that goal, Benzema and Vinicius threatened to show the link play that put them 3-1 ahead in the first leg, the latter winning a free-kick on the edge of the box after a cheeky nutmeg on Reece James, despite his attacking partner overplaying the set piece. But Chelsea continued Real's goal when Kovacic fired over from 25 yards out in what was the Blues' sixth shot on target before the 30th minute. Rudiger followed with a similar long shot that went wide but left Courtois crawling. It was the Chelsea fans who could be heard over the nervous murmurs of the home crowd as Real went into half-time without a shot on target - the first time the Spaniards had such a shot on target in the Champions League since Opta first stats recorded. The away fans' cheering reached a new level after the break - after sustained pressure had led to the equaliser. James' shot from the edge of the box appeared to deflect Modric for a corner - which the Blues took advantage of. Defender Rüdiger hit the set piece and headed it into the opposite corner to equalize. Real tried to react shortly after the extra setback when Benzema missed a shot on goal at Edouard Mendy before Toni Kroos stabbed the Chelsea goalkeeper in the palms with a fierce free-kick. The guests meanwhile showed their counterattack qualities when Kai Havertz hit the side netting on the counter side. That quick thinking at the break almost resulted in Chelsea's third. Mount and Havertz won the ball high up on the court, releasing N'Golo Kante on the counterattack. He fed Marcos Alonso, who sped past Courtois - but the slightest deviation from his arm in build allowed VAR to rule that out. After being denied a potential winner, Chelsea nearly fell behind when Benzema headed a cross from the left onto the bar. But then came Werner's magic moment as some excellent feet from Kovacic allowed him to free the German, who dodged challenges from Casemiro and David Alaba, snaking the ball past Courtois and sparking jubilant scenes. It could have been four for Chelsea but Courtois stopped Havertz's header from a corner. But the tie was soon leveled - this time by the hosts - as Modric Rodrygo found a stunning pass from the outside over the boot in the penalty area and the Real substitute shot well from close range. Blues substitute Christian Pulisic had two golden chances in stoppage time to set up a Chelsea winner, but he spooned two tries over the bar after winning the ball from two free-kick knockdowns - and the game went into extra time. Although Chelsea got off to a good start with James' fierce shot going over the goal, it was Real who took the lead in the first half when Vinicius charged down the left and crossed, Benzema getting a slip from Rudiger in the box used to head home past Mendy. Chelsea managed to accumulate many more chances in extra time, with Hakim Ziyech jabbing the palms of Courtois at his near post, along with spurned chances from Havertz and Jorginho, but the weary Blues legs couldn't muster another goal to get at to hold the top of Europe table this season. "We don't do manager ratings here at Sky Sports - just those for players - but if we did Thomas Tuchel would have been almost a 10/10 because he almost orchestrated one of the biggest comebacks in the Champions League Chelsea had Real Madrid on the ropes, overplay them for large parts and rethink them for almost the majority. That stemmed from Tuchel's plan to play boldly to injure the La Liga leaders while looking for goals, but also to keep Vinicius Jr. and Karim Benzema calm at the other end after the pair threw them in the first half Stamford Bridge had been completely destroyed. "But a great coach needs great players to carry out such instructions." her magic. "It was just unfortunate that Luca Modric, Vinicius Jr and Benzema bring such quality that they are gifted enough to take those half-chances. Modric's ball for Rodrygo's crucial equalizer can take you to football heaven every time you see it.” Reece James embodied Chelsea's tactical display in the way he dealt with Vinicius Jr. Mason Mount ran until his legs could not walk and scored a fantastic goal. Ruben Loftus-Cheek very cleverly adapted his game to play in a diamond midfield, supporting James when needed, while Marcus Alonso delivered his usual quality but backed it up with a flawless performance. "His defensive ability to choke the Brazilian despite being cautioned after just 10 minutes bordered on the ridiculous at times. He made eight tackles that night - no other Chelsea player made more than four. Even as Benzema got into James' area of the pitch," he was there to stop it, flicking the ball away from the striker with his toe to deny the Frenchman a clean strike from eight yards. "After the game, Benzema asked for James' shirt and that said it all." For Tuchel, the VAR decision not to concede Alonso's goal was particularly frustrating - but the Germany head coach still had an ax to grind with referee Szymon Marciniak after the game: the Chelsea boss saw the official with Real coach Carlo after the game Ancelotti laugh, this moment caused a lot of anger in Tuchel in the press conference after the game: "I was disappointed that the referee had a good time with Carlo," said Tuchel after the game, "I think it's the wrong time this af After the final whistle, a team gave their hearts for 126 minutes. If you see a referee smiling and laughing with the other coach, that's bad timing. When you play against Real Madrid, you might not expect everyone to have the guts. I felt the small decisions in the first leg and today too. "I didn't see the goal but I'm very disappointed that he didn't come out and check it himself. However, Tuchel was full of praise for his Chelsea side after the game, admitting that this defeat is easier to cope with the performances of his players. We played what we wanted to play with the quality and character that this team has. We deserved to keep going, we were just unlucky and it wasn't meant to be.” The most important thing is how we play and the input from the players. Full credit goes to the players, they need to score and win over the 90 minutes. Chelsea defender Ruediger joined Tuchel in praising the Blues' efforts on Tuesday night but regretted his side's mistakes in both games of the Champions League quarter-finals, including last week's 3-1 home defeat. "The positive thing is that we didn't give up," said Rüdiger after the second leg. "The game plan was to find our No. 10 with Ruben and Mason between Casemiro, we scored the goal and we controlled it. In the second half we scored and did everything we could. I think before that game nobody thought we would do it." 3-0 but individual class shows with Modric and Benzema. In opposition, Real's Luka Modric admitted he thought his side were 'dead' at 3-0 down - but hailed their team's home support at the Santiago Bernabeu drove to victory. We were dead until the goal we scored. I can't say we played a bad game but they took their chances well and scored three goals. "We kept believing and kept fighting and showed great character. Experience certainly plays a big part in this competition and helped us a bit today. "We knew it was going to be tough, but in the end we have great character, will and shown togetherness. * Chelsea became only the second English side to score three goals away from Real Madrid in all European competitions, after Manchester United did so in a 3-3 European Cup draw in May 1968. * Real Madrid's Karim Benzema scored his 13th goal in in the UEFA Champions League against English opponents to become the second-highest goalscorer against Premier League sides in the competition after Lionel Messi (27) No team has scored more goals in the UEFA Champions League than Real Madrid's Karim Benzema than against Chelsea (5th ), while only Lionel Messi has scored more goals against any specific English side in the competition (9 vs Arsenal, 7 vs Man City).* Luka Modric has four assists in the Champions League this term, his best return in a single season. Since joining Real Madrid in 2012/13, only Cristiano Ronaldo has had more assists for them in the competition (20) than the Croatian (16). Chelsea travel to Wembley for Sunday's FA Cup semi-final against Crystal Palace; Kick-off at 4.30 p.m. Thomas Tuchel's side then host Arsenal at Stamford Bridge in the Premier League on Wednesday, live on Sky Sports Premier League from 7pm; Kick-off at 7:45 p.m. La Liga leaders Real Madrid meet third-placed Sevilla on Sunday - behind second-placed Barcelona on goal difference only - and have a 12-point lead at the top of the table before heading to midfielder Osasuna on Wednesday.

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Tuchel dissatisfied with referee after Chelsea exit

Thomas Tuchel criticized referee Szymon Marciniak for "smiling and laughing" after Chelsea's Champions League exit with Real Madrid boss Carlo Ancelotti. (Author: Gardener)

ChelseaThomas Tuchel has slammed the referee for "smiling and laughing" with Real Madrid boss Carlo Ancelotti after Chelsea were eliminated from the Champions League. Trailing 3-1 from the first leg, the Blues forced an extra time against the record 13-time winners at the Bernabeu before losing 4-5 on aggregate. "I think this is the worst time of all," said Tuchel. "After 126 minutes with a team that gave their heart and will and fought to the last drop. I know Carlo is a gentleman and a nice guy but when I wanted to go and say thank you [to the referee], see I make him smile." and laugh out loud with the opposing coach. "I think it's very, very bad timing." Tuchel was also unhappy that the referee hadn't looked at the VAR monitor himself when Marcos Alonso's attempt at a handball in the second half was disallowed. "Maybe when you play against Real Madrid you can't expect everyone to have the guts. I felt small decisions were made against us in the first leg and today too," he said. "I didn't see the goal but I told him I was super disappointed he didn't check it himself. You should remain the boss and not leave such decisions to someone in a chair and be isolated from the atmosphere." A The referee has a certain style, things he allows and doesn't, so I think he should keep the responsibility and check it himself, then he could explain it better. Maybe it's too much to ask in games like this against these opponents In the 75th minute of the evening the Blues were 3-0 up, 15 minutes from a sensational performance but Rodrygo's volley equalized the aggregate five minutes later, in front of Karim Benzema – a hat-trick hero Stamford Bridge six days earlier – headed the crucial goal that sent Real going through: "These are defeats that we can digest and swallow because we have nothing to regret out there," said Tuchel, the Chelsea However, Coach criticized the mistakes over two legs that led to Real's goals. Benzema's goal in extra time came after Antonio Rudiger slipped in the penalty area. "We had to overcome a big deficit because we made big mistakes in the first leg and today both goals came from mistakes by us," added Tuchel. "They capitalized on the mistakes with individual quality and that was enough because we made too many of those big mistakes over the two legs." Chelsea will not take long to recover from leaving Europe as they prepare for a second visit to Wembley of the season. Despite thriving at the Fifa Club World Cup and Uefa Super Cup, they lost on penalties to Liverpool in the Carabao Cup final and are 12 points behind leaders Manchester City in the Premier League with just eight games to go. "The positive thing is that we didn't give up," said defender Rüdiger. "Not many teams can come and dominate Real Madrid like we did. But over the two games, if you make these kinds of mistakes like we did, you will be punished. I think before the game not everyone thought that we would have that 3-0. For them, with Luka Modric and Benzema, the individual class shows." Former England goalkeeper Rob Green fears the grueling 120 minutes in the Spanish capital could affect Chelsea's preparations for Wembley. “Chelsea have invested so much in the game. They put their heart and soul into this game," Green said on BBC Radio 5 Live. "Real Madrid looked lost. Former England midfielder Karen Carney added on 5 Live: "You can't complain. That leg wasn't the one Chelsea sent out. "They have conceded five goals in the two legs. They leave themselves open at times." * Our Chelsea coverage is bigger and better than ever - here's everything you need to know to make sure you don't miss a moment * All Chelsea - jump straight to the best content

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Mason Mount proves his class on the biggest stage

Mount's idol in midfield is Luka Modric and the two went toe-to-toe in a riveting battle for their teams on Tuesday night (Author: Gardener)

Mason MountJust before half-time in one of the most exciting European clashes in recent history, Real Madrid's David Alaba angrily approached Casemiro and clapped the Brazilian's hands. Casemiro had spent the first half chasing a player at the Santiago Bernabeu and he had shown he had little idea what to do about it. The problem for the Spanish side was Mason Mount, whose invention and intelligence had unexpectedly turned the game in Chelsea's favour, and for Real things were to get worse before eventually getting spectacularly better. As they fell exhausted to the pitch after the final whistle, the overwhelming feeling was that Chelsea's players deserved so much more than a loss here. No player was this more true than Mount, who scored a goal and scored another - to everything else - in one of football's most intimidating arenas. After working his way back from extra time, Mount was grabbed on the pitch by Luka Modric. The midfielders exchanged a hug and a few words, and it felt like a fitting image of two of the players who had shaped the game: Mount embodied Chelsea's rousing comeback, while it was Modric who restored Real's momentum. How strange it is to remember those days, early in Mount's career, when some observers wondered if he would ever be good enough to play regularly in the Premier League, let alone on such famous European stages as this . Those doubts are long gone, thanks in large part to the Champions League medal that hung around Mount's neck at the end of last season, and the debate has since shifted. Even the most casual of fans know Mount is one of the country's leading players and after Tuesday's performance in Spain it seems other questions should now be asked: how far can he go? Far more than an efficient cog in a clever Chelsea team, the 23-year-old was the key player in Thomas Tuchel's master plan. On and off the ball, everything depended on Mount for the first 80 minutes of that game until Modric produced a moment - a pass that had to be seen to believe - that changed the course of the night. Mount is certainly not a player easily defined by stats, as he appreciates the space and intricacies of a game, but his individual numbers are increasingly difficult to ignore. Since the start of last season he is one of only two Englishmen (along with Harry Kane) at a Premier League club to have scored and assisted more than 20 goals. Producing those game-defining interventions in the Premier League is one thing, but quite another against Modric and Toni Kroos. Mount led the press for Chelsea, delivering the 'physicality' that Tuchel had demanded and demonstrating his quality of possession with the opening goal and corner that gave Antonio Rudiger's second goal. It was Mount's positioning and movement that so confused Casemiro in the first half. Were it not for a handball decision to nullify Marcos Alonso's second-half goal, Mount would have put his stamp on a third goal: it was the Englishman who captured the ball high up the pitch as a runaway Dodge smashed into midfield and Chance scored the goal for his team. If games at this level were decided by tactical acumen and all-round intelligence, Mount Madrid would have left that night victorious and with another Man of the Match prize in their suitcase. Unfortunately, for him and for Chelsea, those duels will instead be decided by moments: the moment Modric turned that pass towards Rodrygo in the 80th minute and the moment Karim Benzema dodged Chelsea defenders to score the winning goal achieve. Such was the defeat, it will take time for Mount to appreciate the quality of his own performance. Mount has long advertised himself as a footballer of the highest potential, a regular in England and a Champions League winner, but this was an achievement that proved his potential is now being transformed into true excellence.

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Chelsea heroes undone as Benzema header thwarts epic Madrid comeback

This was so almost a Champions League comeback for the ages, Chelsea were on the verge of performing a miracle in Madrid to field the most remarkable defense of their crown. (Author: Gardener)

MadridThey have scored four goals so long without a response from Real Madrid, three of which have stood still, and yet they are eliminated from the tournament. They don't deserve it, but Real are the eternal kings of Europe for a reason. An incredible through ball from Luka Modric gave substitute Rodrygo the chance to take the game into extra time while Real were 3-0 down. And then, in extra time, Karim Benzema scored his fourth goal of the tie, ending Chelsea's reign as European champions 3-2 in the evening and 5-4 on aggregate. They were outstanding, beating Real in every department and finishing just barely. On a night for heroes, it feels cruel to struggle with the mistakes that ultimately cost them both their legs. The mix-up between Edouard Mendy and Toni Rudiger, who gave Benzema his hat-trick goal in the first leg, and Romelu Lukaku, who missed the goal from six yards out, left Chelsea with a mountainous task in Spain. And in that game, with the game heading into extra time, substitute Christian Pulisic failed to convert two chances from close range, which came back to chase them when Benzema headed the winner. In late extra time, both Kai Havertz and Jorginho missed clear chances to score. They ridiculed Tuchel's claim after the 3-1 first-leg defeat that the tie was dead. The German was emotional at Stamford Bridge that night and no doubt chastised by his team's snappy performance of which Benzema so ruthlessly exploited. But an early goal in Madrid and it would always go on. That came duly through Mason Mount, who charged into the box in the 15th minute and swept a shot past Thibaut Courtois to make the traveling fans believe the miracle comeback was at hand. Chelsea were brilliant in that first half as N'Golo Kante, Mateo Kovacic and Ruben Loftus-Cheek rolled over Real's midfield. Mount and Havertz used this uncertainty to their advantage, punching holes in Real's rearguard and getting into dangerous areas themselves. Chelsea had earned their advantage at the break and they deservedly took a 2-0 lead when Rudiger's header beat Courtois' dive six minutes into the second half. The guests continued to roll over their opponents and it was from a Mount corner that Ruediger equalized the tie. Chelsea thought they were ahead just after the hour mark when Marcos Alonso fired a right-footed shot into the top corner. Wild celebrations ensued and it felt like Real were in a complete meltdown until VAR came to their rescue, shutting out the goal for a handball from Alonso. That's certainly how it felt as Benzema - bound through and through - headed for goal only to see his shot come off the bar. To Chelsea's credit they didn't feel sorry for themselves and took the lead for the first time on 75 minutes through a brilliant Werner goal. The German looked to have missed the opportunity after being served by Kovacic but skipped challenges from Casemiro and David Alaba before hitting the far corner. This time Real capitalized on another stab as substitute Rodrygo volleyed home Modric's most spectacular pass. Still, it was Chelsea who had a chance to win it on 90 minutes, with Pulisic coming off the bench to overtake two close-range volleys. Those errors ultimately cost Chelsea as Benzema headed into Vinicius Junior's cross after Rudiger slipped trying to get to the French striker. It was cruel - but even in defeat, Chelsea legends were created that night.

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Jody Morris questions Chelsea's decision to reject Crystal Palace's FA Cup bid

Jody Morris says he's disappointed Conor Gallagher won't be able to play in the FA Cup semi-final between Chelsea and Crystal Palace. (Author: Gardener)

Jody MorrisJody Morris has said he's "burned out" that Conor Gallagher won't be able to play in Sunday's FA Cup semi-final between Chelsea and Crystal Palace. Gallagher, 22, spent the season on loan from the Blues at Palace and has become one of the Premier League's top young midfielders with eight goals and five assists in all competitions for the Eagles. However, he will not take part in Sunday's game after Chelsea rejected Palace's special request to allow the midfielder to play against his parent club, a decision which Eagles manager Patrick Vieira has already heavily criticized. But while former Chelsea midfielder and assistant coach Morris says he feels sorry for Gallagher, he also understands the club's decision, telling Ladbrokes: "I'm disappointed that Gallagher will miss this weekend... it's a real shame that he can't play it. "I honestly can't see Crystal Palace beating Chelsea this weekend - especially when Conor isn't allowed to play, which is such a shame by the way. “I think Patrick Vieira said during the week that this was exactly why players like Conor took those loans; to get away and experience these types of games. "And when you've been as crucial to a team's success as Conor has been to Palace, you can't help but think it's a real shame he won't feature on Sunday." During his nine years at Stamford Bridge Morris won the FA Cup in 2000 and later coached Chelsea's youth teams before becoming Frank Lampard's assistant at Derby County and then Chelsea. He added: "We were lucky when me and Frank were in the derby because we played Chelsea [in the 2018 League Cup] and they allowed us to play Mason Mount and Fikayo Tomori because they felt like that it was great for their development. I mean, we're not going to talk about Tomori's own goal in this game, but still! "It's such a shame Conor can't play for Palace and I'm absolutely disappointed in him as a boy because he deserves to play on the big stage. The FA Cup is Chelsea's best shot at being part of their winners' trophy this season as the Blues are eliminated in the title race, trailing 3-1 to Real Madrid in the Champions League quarter-finals. Palace, meanwhile, have never won a major title and will need to do their best without Gallagher by their side to beat Chelsea at Wembley. MORE : Frank Lampard's former assistant Jody Morris warns Chelsea about Conor Gallagher's future MORE : Patrick Vieira slams Chelsea for decision to ban Conor Gallagher from playing in FA Cup semi-finals

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Frank Lampard's assistant claims the future Chelsea star could ask to leave

Frank Lampard's former assistant has warned Chelsea that Conor Gallagher could consider leaving the club this summer. (Author: Gardener)

Frank Lampard'sJody Morris has warned Chelsea that Conor Gallagher could consider leaving Chelsea this summer and says there will be plenty of takers for the Stamford Bridge loanee. Gallagher has enjoyed a landmark season on loan at Crystal Palace, scoring eight goals, providing three assists in the Premier League and helping the Eagles reach the FA Cup semi-finals. Morris, who was Frank Lampard's assistant manager at Chelsea, believes Gallagher can be like a "new signing" when he returns to Stamford Bridge but has warned the club the attacking midfielder could still decide to leave. "Conor Gallagher is certainly the best young player of the season," Morris told Ladbrokes. “His performances – not only at Crystal Palace this season but also at Swansea and West Brom – have been incredible. “He's been a top performer for almost three years and made it to the Premier League like it was nothing. The energy he exudes, the fact that he's scoring goals and how at home he looks on the international stage... there's no reason why Chelsea shouldn't have him in the starting XI next season. “I hope, however, that they bring him in with the intention of playing him; don't just bring him back and hold him to play him for 10 or 15 games; you have to look to the future. "A lot of Chelsea fans aren't going to like me saying that, but if you're Conor Gallagher and you're looking ahead to your future, you're like, 'No one's guaranteed to play at Chelsea week in and week out'. He certainly put himself in the shop window. 'He could be like a massive summer deal for Chelsea if he returns to the club at the end of the season. You just have to look at what happened to Mason Mount and his career when he came back from Derby. ‘Tammy Abraham also produced; There's really no reason why clubs shouldn't give these players a real chance, whether they're in the top four clubs or not." Morris, who worked with Gallagher during his time as Chelsea manager, added : "I know Conor if he was given a chance at the club he would grab it with both hands and show everyone what a top player he is." As well as helping Crystal Palace reach an FA Cup semi-final at Wembley , Gallagher was also influential in the Premier League, with Vieira's side climbing into the top half of the table with just seven games left. Over the last six months, Gallagher has been compared to Chelsea legend Lampard and current Blues star Mason Mount, with Morris saying: "You see a lot of comparisons between Conor and Lamps and I understand. He's certainly no more assertive than Frank - although I believe many never were - when it comes to arriving in the pits. "He was just an absolute machine and if you had the sheer class he possessed to take those chances and the ability to influence games like that in terms of goals from midfield, I don't think anyone would relate to Frank can keep up. He is the most prolific midfielder of all time. “But when it comes to starting the press and getting on the ball high up on the pitch, Conor has the upper hand over someone like a Frank. He's similar to a Mason [Mount], to be honest I think they're both similar. For more stories like this, visit our sports page.

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Chelsea heroes undone as Karim Benzema header thwarts Real Madrid's epic comeback

This was so almost a Champions League comeback for the ages, Chelsea were on the verge of performing a miracle in Madrid to field the most remarkable defense of their crown. And in that game, with the game heading into extra time, substitute Christian Pulisic failed to convert two chances from close range, which came back to chase them when Benzema headed the winner. (Author: Gardener)

ChelseaThis was so almost a Champions League comeback for the ages, Chelsea were on the verge of performing a miracle in Madrid to field the most remarkable defense of their crown. They have scored four goals so long without a response from Real Madrid, three of which have stood still, and yet they are eliminated from the tournament. They don't deserve it, but Real are the eternal kings of Europe for a reason. An incredible through ball from Luka Modric gave substitute Rodrygo the chance to take the game into extra time while Real were 3-0 down. And then, in extra time, Karim Benzema scored his fourth goal of the tie, ending Chelsea's reign as European champions 3-2 in the evening and 5-4 on aggregate. They were outstanding, beating Real in every department and finishing just barely. On a night for heroes, it feels cruel to struggle with the mistakes that ultimately cost them both their legs. The mix-up between Edouard Mendy and Toni Rudiger, who gave Benzema his hat-trick goal in the first leg, and Romelu Lukaku, who missed the goal from six yards out, left Chelsea with a mountainous task in Spain. And in that game, with the game heading into extra time, substitute Christian Pulisic failed to convert two chances from close range, which came back to chase them when Benzema headed the winner. In late extra time, both Kai Havertz and Jorginho missed clear chances to score. They ridiculed Tuchel's claim after the 3-1 first-leg defeat that the tie was dead. The German was emotional at Stamford Bridge that night and no doubt chastised by his team's snappy performance of which Benzema so ruthlessly exploited. But an early goal in Madrid and it would always go on. That came duly through Mason Mount, who charged into the box in the 15th minute and swept a shot past Thibaut Courtois to make the traveling fans believe the miracle comeback was at hand. Chelsea were brilliant in that first half as N'Golo Kante, Mateo Kovacic and Ruben Loftus-Cheek rolled over Real's midfield. Mount and Havertz used this uncertainty to their advantage, punching holes in Real's rearguard and getting into dangerous areas themselves. Chelsea had earned their advantage at the break and they deservedly took a 2-0 lead when Rudiger's header beat Courtois' dive six minutes into the second half. The guests continued to roll over their opponents and it was from a Mount corner that Ruediger equalized the tie. Chelsea thought they were ahead just after the hour mark when Marcos Alonso fired a right-footed shot into the top corner. Wild celebrations ensued and it felt like Real were in a complete meltdown until VAR came to their rescue, shutting out the goal for a handball from Alonso. That's certainly how it felt as Benzema - bound through and through - headed for goal only to see his shot come off the bar. To Chelsea's credit they didn't feel sorry for themselves and took the lead for the first time on 75 minutes through a brilliant Werner goal. The German looked to have missed the opportunity after being served by Kovacic but skipped challenges from Casemiro and David Alaba before hitting the far corner. This time Real capitalized on another stab as substitute Rodrygo volleyed home Modric's most spectacular pass. Still, it was Chelsea who had a chance to win it on 90 minutes, with Pulisic coming off the bench to overtake two close-range volleys. Those errors ultimately cost Chelsea as Benzema headed into Vinicius Junior's cross after Rudiger slipped trying to get to the French striker. It was cruel - but even in defeat, Chelsea legends were created that night.

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Karim Benzema blocks Chelsea's path to Champions League comeback against Real Madrid

The Blues need to come from a 3-1 deficit against Real Madrid at the Bernabeu to reach the semi-finals (Author: Gardener)

Real MadridThe Chelsea side are already talking about how they can do it like it's been done before. After all, recent Champions League seasons have seen far bigger comebacks than what Thomas Tuchel's side needed to reverse a 3-1 deficit at Real Madrid. He has pointed out the lessons of some of them in his preparations, in which the players were revved up. That's the mood they're going to the Bernabeu with now. It's quite a difference from how they finished the first leg at Stamford Bridge. Tuchel himself inevitably changed the tone. The Chelsea manager said his players should not "accept" the exit and could do so "by leaving everything we have on the pitch". It's the beauty of the game that anything is possible," he added. The last few years have proven that it is possible, especially when teams do not just see a comeback as an immense task that needs to be scaled up. You have to proceed step by step, especially since each step fundamentally changes the state of the game. That's what Tuchel told his players. Chelsea eventually need a 3-0 win at the Bernabeu to progress, which usually seems "impossible", as the manager put it. However, the whole feeling changes if they can score even one goal to make it 3-2 overall. Then it's not about something as big as a 3-0 win at the Bernabeu. After that it's all about the next goal. That's how Madrid played themselves when they returned from a 2-0 deficit against Paris Saint-Germain. That's what Tuchel meant when he said Chelsea must have "a game where faith grows through our actions within the game". However, there is a major complication to such a plan. This is not Madrid, not even the psychological challenge of doing it in this great stadium, as Tuchel said. "Playing as an away team at the Bernabeu is one of the biggest challenges," said the Chelsea manager. "And it's even more difficult when you have to get a certain result, when you have to win by at least two goals or even three goals." That's one of the reasons why Uefa abolished the away goals rule. It should also be some consolation for Chelsea that Madrid scored three goals at Stamford Bridge without those goals meaning what they used to do. The biggest complication, however, is the scorer of those goals. Karim Benzema is in a career shape where he can undo any game plan on the fly. He can do it easily, so Chelsea need to get four or even five here. It's an immense challenge to stop him - especially if you're following a game. Benzema's goals in the first leg ensured he became only the second player, after Cristiano Ronaldo, to score hat-tricks in consecutive Champions League knockout games. That's symbolic, as it feels like it's finally taking him to a similar level to such greats. He's certainly having one of their seasons and has been the dominant player this entire Champions League season so far. That raises bigger questions about his career, aside from whether he can actually deliver the trophy himself. After all, that level of performance is exactly the kind of effect people envisioned when they saw Benzema ravaging defense as a young player at Lyon. It was the career he should have. That's not to say it was wrong for Benzema to act as Ronaldo's support act as we were talking about one of the greatest players of all time. It begs the question what his career would have been like if he had been the center of attention like he is now. Benzema has won the Champions League four times and is now on his way to a fourth Spanish title. It's more about his grade for such performances and whether he could have had more wins of his own. Diego Maradona, for example, has far fewer medals than a great like Paolo Maldini, but part of the reason his World Cup is considered greater than such a haul was the Argentine's way of defining such glory. It makes a difference. It's also about the feeling. Of course, that doesn't mean that Benzema is at Maradona level. But we're talking about a modern size, which leads to last week's second question. Has Benzema always been this good or has he reached another level? As contradictory as those two points may sound, many people who know the 34-year-old insist he's a bit of both. It was only restricted to allow Benzema to work in a more collective role. We didn't see a full release of his abilities or a player who could max them out. Benzema is now dependent on no one else. "We are dependent on Benzema," said Carlo Ancelotti on Monday. It freed his game and talent but some Madrid sources insist there has been a multiplier effect. The Bernabeu will be eyeing Benzema on Tuesday. Chelsea won't be able to see past him. It requires going step by step towards a proper plan. "We don't need anything other than a fantastic script," said Tuchel. Madrid may just have the main man of the tie and its box office star.

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Chelsea denied a heroic comeback as Karim Benzema finished off the Champions League thriller

Real Madrid 2-3 Chelsea (Real Madrid win 5-4 on aggregate): Goals from Mason Mount, Antonio Rudiger and Timo Werner put the European champions on the brink of an unlikely comeback, but Rodygo saved the hosts before Karim Benzema delivered a thrilling equaliser scored quarterfinals in overtime (Author: Gardener)

Karim BenzemaA hard to believe night at the Bernabeu that should have Chelsea wondering exactly how they went out. Many will rightly point to the seemingly everlasting greatness of Luka Modric and Karim Benzema, who together have evoked the connection's second sensational comeback. Chelsea should still only look out for themselves. They had won the game, going 3-0 on the evening and 4-3 on aggregate, only on fundamental sloppiness to allow Real Madrid to come through with two to take it 5-4 after extra time. Two players went beyond that. This feeling is certainly all the more profound when you feel – not for the first time – that Madrid just aren't that good. They would like to point out that they only have the players to take advantage of any circumstance and expose each team's mistakes because there can be absolutely no doubts about Modric and Benzema. The France star was the match-winner again, scoring his 38th goal of the season in his 38th game and is the standout player of this Champions League campaign. It's the kind of level of performance that should end with the handover of the trophy itself, but Madrid now likely have Pep Guardiola's Manchester City next. On the other hand, considering how alone this Tuesday went in the Champions League, can anyone really count on anything in this competition? Watch this game alone whatever happened in Munich. Karim Benzema continued the best season of his career with another important winner (Getty Images). After the Champions League had developed a capacity for spectacular comebacks in recent years, this somehow continued and had two comebacks in one game. Carlo Ancelotti eventually came out on the other side. Tuchel will be surprised how his team let it go. The tie was far from dead as he proclaimed after the 3-1 defeat in the first leg, but his team kept Madrid alive. Chelsea showed in the first half what they should have done in the first leg. Not only were they more intense and focused than Madrid. They looked like the better team. For their part, Madrid struggled to find that balance between attack and defense when they were ahead in a draw. It was far from the first time that Ancelotti was in this situation. That only added to the wave of trepidation that swept through the stadium after 14 minutes. It's debatable how much the German knew about what happened next as the ball rebounded forward, but Mason Mount certainly knew what he did next. Mason Mount gave Chelsea hope early on (Getty Images) He charged at the loose ball and put it straight into the corner. Chelsea rose. There was a period after the goal where they were already locking in Ancelotti's side like it was the last 10 minutes. Many of Madrid's players looked their age, the squad looked stale again. Just as Chelsea were gaining momentum, Modric and Toni Kroos got the ball to slow down the game. Chelsea got right back to her. Chaos reigned around their box and Chelsea increasingly applied control of their own. There was a feeling that the ball could go anywhere. James shot wide from a loose ball, referee Szymon Marciniak awarded a corner. Antonio Rudiger then equalized for Chelsea and plundered a header. Antonio Rudiger drew level with Chelsea before Timo Werner put the Blues ahead (AFP via Getty Images). However, Madrid couldn't really complain about decisions that went against them. Mount might have had a penalty minutes earlier and then Marcos Alonso's goal was ruled out for what seemed like an innocuous handball. It was a reprieve for Madrid and encouraged them enough that Benzema hit the top of the bar with a header. The game had seen little of him, although he was obviously building up. Given the goalscorer and the circumstances, it was difficult to know which of them would be used for Chelsea's third goal. Werner was suddenly released into the penalty area only to look like he had gotten the ball too far wide. It was just setting up one of his finest goals, albeit from Madrid's terrible defence. With Casemiro seemingly determined to get down as early as possible, Werner stepped aside once and then twice before snaking the ball past Thibaut Courtois. It was remarkable composure, particularly from a player who has become notoriously endearing for rash finishes and inexplicable misses during his time at Chelsea. Madrid should have done that. One of the reasons Madrid remain so tenacious is that a player like Modric is far from done. He just keeps showing why he's one of the greatest in game history. In the 80th minute when Madrid needed something, the Croatian offered divine inspiration. Chelsea had been in a rare moment of retreat as Rodrygo made a quick run forward. Modric spotted him at the other end of the field and aimed a daring ball with the outside of his foot. Rodrygo saved Real Madrid before Benzema scored in extra time (Getty Images) It was inevitably Benzema who ended it, with a header of course. Madrid finally played with momentum, but not to the extent that it should have knocked Rudiger to the ground. However, with the defender prone, Benzema bent down to head in on Vinicius' cross. Chelsea staggered. However, Modric and Benzema have seen it all.

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How Kai Havertz replaced Romelu Lukaku to lead the line for the Blues

Chelsea meet Real Madrid in the Champions League quarter-finals at the Bernabeu on Tuesday, with the Blues attempting to reverse a 3-1 deficit; Kai Havertz will lead the line for Thomas Tuchel's side, who will be without Romelu Lukaku after he was sidelined with an Achilles injury (Author: Gardener)

Kai HavertzNews that their side would be forced to go into the biggest game of their season without their record signing would normally be enough to prompt at least a mild form of panic among a fan base, but the fact that Romelu Lukaku's injury meant Tuesday's absence The trip to Real Madrid hasn't garnered more than minor headlines, reflecting how much he's struggled since returning to Chelsea this season. Signed from Inter Milan last August for £97.5million, Lukaku was seen as the final piece in the jigsaw that would allow Thomas Tuchel to solve the riddle of ending Manchester City and Liverpool's domestic dominance. Lukaku continued to overwhelm so he now finds himself No. 9 in the pecking order at Stamford Bridge, behind Kai Havertz, and the German will take the lead again as Chelsea look to reverse a 3-1 deficit at the Bernabeu and move into the Champions League semifinals. Lukaku was ruled out with an Achilles injury but his absence is unlikely to have disrupted Tuchel's game plan as the 28-year-old has only started in the FA Cup since mid-February. Lukaku did come on from the bench in the first leg against Real but, two goals down and desperate inspiration, he needed a glorious chance just minutes after coming on, a scene that perfectly summed up his return to the club he supported as a teenager , has gone sideways. Lukaku will now be deprived of the opportunity to redeem that miss in the second leg and instead be forced to watch from the sidelines where he may ponder what went wrong for him this season, why Havertz was able to thrive where he did failed and whether his return to West London was in fact doomed from the start. Since Lukaku's now infamous performance at Crystal Palace on February 19, which saw the nearly £100m-signed man touch the ball just seven times in 90 minutes, he has started just two games, both against opponents from the FA's lower division Cup were held. While that afternoon at Selhurst Park appeared to be a turning point for Lukaku, it was also a turning point for Havertz, who replaced the Belgian as Thomas Tuchel's preferred No.9 after that game and scored seven goals in nine starts. The fact that Havertz is embracing his opportunity to lead the line is welcome news for Chelsea given the sizeable investment they made in him nearly two years ago, but it has raised the issue of what to do with Lukaku. It seems untenable that a player of Lukaku's undisputed quality would warm the bench for any length of time, but the following stats show why Tuchel's preference for Havertz as a leading player is fully justified. The German is scoring more goals per 90 minutes than Lukaku in the Premier League, while also attempting more shots and having more of them on target. Havertz's comfortable play in a variety of positions - he has spent much of his career playing either on the wing or behind a main striker - could explain why he offers far more build-up than Lukaku, as evidenced by the fact that he has more than completes twice as many passes per 90 minutes as his teammate. It's not just Havertz's personal stats that justify his inclusion at Lukaku's expense; As the chart below shows, Chelsea perform better on a number of metrics – including goals scored, passes completed in the last third and ball wins in the last third – when Tuchel plays his compatriot as a central striker. Needless to say, Lukaku's total of five goals in 20 Premier League games since returning to Chelsea is far fewer than he or the club expected and not what the European and world champions paid all that money for. Only Cristiano Ronaldo - then at Juventus - has scored more goals than Lukaku in Serie A in the 2020/21 season, but since returning to the Premier League, Belgium's all-time top scorer has recorded fewer goals, shots, touches in the box and assists. Compared to Inter, where Lukaku was successful last season, Tuchel's team tries more passes in the last third, more long passes, more through balls and more crosses. A key difference between the two sides, however, is that last season Lukaku was joined by Lautaro Martinez in Antonio Conte's favored 3-5-2 formation, while he usually has two attacking midfielders behind him when leading the line for Chelsea leads. Inter's system allowed Lukaku to fill center and right channel positions while he plays a more central role under Tuchel. In Lukaku's controversial interview with Sky Italy late last year, he questioned the head coach's system, saying that Tuchel 'decided to play a different formation'. But it's not that Tuchel hasn't given Lukaku the opportunity to play with another striker this season - he has done so six times, with the Belgian's performance declining in a number of key metrics compared to his line-up as a lone striker is . Chelsea lined up in a 3-5-2 formation in September's away game against Manchester City, with Lukaku up front alongside Timo Werner, but the Blues failed to find a shot on target in a 1-0 home loss. In fact, there's an argument that many of the Blues' attacking players aren't strong in front of goal - a concern as they need to score at least two goals just to put the Champions League game at Real Madrid into overtime. Mason Mount is the only member of Tuchel's squad to have reached double figures in the Premier League this season, while none of Lukaku, Timo Werner, Christian Pulisic, Hakim Ziyech or Callum Hudson-Odoi have scored more than five goals in the top flight Has. Chelsea's forwards have even been shown off by their younger team-mates who are currently on loan in the Premier League. Conor Gallagher has scored more league goals this season than any other Blues player except Mount, while Armando Broja is just one behind Havertz with six goals. Reece James is the top-scoring defender in the Premier League with five goals, while Chelsea defenders have scored 19 goals as a group this season - just one goal less than the entire Norwich team in 31 games. After Lukaku's seven touches at Palace, Tuchel suggested history might be working against his striker to become a regular goalscorer at Stamford Bridge, saying: "There's a history of strikers struggling a little at Chelsea, so maybe it's not the easiest place in the world for a striker." Lukaku is certainly in good company when it comes to being a well-known striker who hasn't lived up to expectations at Stamford Bridge. Ever since Didier Drogba - hands down the Chelsea's best strikers in the last two decades - leaving the club for the last time in the summer of 2015, only Diego Costa, who has scored 52 Premier League goals in 89 games, could claim to have been a player unreservedly successful up front for the Blues Tammy Abraham's 21 total goals in 56 league games is perhaps better than expected as Tuchel has barely used the England striker while Olivie r Giroud's 17 of 75 does not reflect the value he offered as a target man. However, there is no doubt that Chelsea have been lacking a prolific goalscorer for a number of seasons, evidenced by the hard-to-believe fact that Eden Hazard is the Premier League's top scorer with 28 goals since the start of the 2017/18 season, despite him left the club almost three years ago. For context, this means that Lukaku's Belgium teammate is ranked 33rd for top-flight goals during this period. Lukaku may look at this and believe that Tuchel was right when he said history could work against him - after all, it seems that scoring regularly as Chelsea's No9 is far more difficult than it should be. But it's also clear Lukaku isn't doing the job he was hired to do, which was to score the goals that allowed the Blues to close the gap on Liverpool and City. Meanwhile, Tuchel has settled on a Lukaku-less system that has continued to allow his side to pick up points, while Havertz has filled the gap enough that it's hard to see the record-breaking signing earning his place in the league Team regained the season is in its final stages - especially with the Germans helping Chelsea to an unlikely European Cup semi-final.

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