Real Madrid held off a stunning comeback from Chelsea to win a thrilling Champions League quarter-final 5-4 on aggregate on Tuesday, thanks to Luka Modric and Karim Benzema. Chelsea wiped out Real Madrid’s 3-1 first-leg advantage in spectacular fashion at the Santiago Bernabeu, with Mason Mount, Antonio Rudiger, and Timo Werner putting Europe’s reigning champions on the verge of an astonishing triumph. But Modric, 36, stepped in with another brilliant moment to add to his sparkling career, an exquisite ball on the outside of his right foot setting up Rodrygo to volley in and pushing the game into extra time.
Following his hat-trick at Stamford Bridge, Benzema went forward to claim the winner, capitalizing on a Rudiger slip to head in, a 3-2 defeat enough to send Madrid into the semi-finals.
“At the Bernabeu, you never think anything is gone,” Carlo Ancelotti stated afterward. “I’m not sure how to express it, but there’s a mystique in this stadium that helps you.”
At the final whistle, Modric and Benzema collapsed to the ground, their combined 70-year-old age belying again two vintage contributions that have propelled Real Madrid to a 14th European Cup.
In the final four, they will face either Manchester City or Atletico Madrid.
Chelsea came in revitalized after putting six past Southampton in the Premier League last weekend, after being hammered by Brentford and then outplayed by Madrid in the first leg last week.
Thomas Tuchel stated on Monday that they would need a “great screenplay” to pull off this comeback, and they certainly delivered, with their main failing being their inability to stop Modric and Benzema from doing what they have done so many times before.
“We were unlucky, and that’s why we’re disappointed,” Tuchel said. “We were defeated by sheer individual talent and our own blunders. We deserved to go through with it.”
Mount’s 15th-minute goal set the tone, with Madrid quickly engulfed by tension and Chelsea given early hope.
Mateo Kovacic was instrumental in the build-up, but it was Ruben Loftus-fast Cheek’s pass into Werner that took Madrid off guard, the German diverting the ball into the path of Mount, who advanced and blasted past Thibaut Courtois.
For the first 20 minutes, Chelsea dictated, while Madrid resisted. Reece James was doing an excellent job of limiting Vinicius Junior and obstructing Madrid’s escape route.
Chelsea assumes command.
Chelsea’s authority was even more pronounced early in the second half, and within minutes they had a second, Rudiger rising high at the back post to head in from a corner. Benzema, Modric, and Toni Kroos tried to wrestle back control, but Chelsea’s authority was even more pronounced early in the second half, and within minutes they had a third, Rudiger rising high at the back post to head in from a corner.
With their advantage gone, Madrid briefly exerted themselves, the crowd into the fray. Chelsea, on the other hand, was celebrating the third goal when Marcos Alonso spun around Dani Carvajal’s sliding tackle and smashed into the top corner.
Madrid appeared to be beaten, and the stadium appeared to be deserted, yet the referee stood by. The Bernabeu exploded when VAR showed Alonso had controlled the ball with his hand and the verdict was reversed.
With 28 minutes remaining, the draw was once again in doubt. Madrid had regained their footing and almost scored, with Benzema’s looping header at the back post bouncing off the crossbar.
Chelsea came back in the 73rd minute when Kovacic slipped through Werner, who coolly slalomed past two tumbling Madrid players and sent a deflected finish trickling into the corner.
Kroos was pulled off before a chaotic contest was turned on Modric’s moment of magic once more. Modric stroked a 30-yard pass over to the right of the penalty box with the outside of his foot, where Rodrygo, on as a substitute, volleyed in.
Chelsea appeared the more likely to score late, and they almost did, with Kai Havertz heading across the six-yard box, but Christian Pulisic fired wide.
Madrid found another gear in extra time, with Vinicius finally finding space to tear into. Rudiger might have easily cleared his floated cross, but the defender stumbled, giving Benzema just enough space to guide his header in.
Chelsea, who had been so poised all night, suddenly appeared ragged. Eduardo Camavinga hit the crossbar. Courtois Cruyff-circled Havertz.
In the last minutes, they put everything at Madrid, with Courtois saving from Werner before Fede Valverde had to block an effort from Thiago Silva. Madrid held on as Edouard Mendy went up for the last corner.