Chelsea went down as they suffer elimination from the Champions League by Carlo Ancelotti’s European champions.
Chelsea was dumped out of the Champions League following a 2-0 second-leg defeat to Real Madrid in the quarterfinals at Stamford Bridge despite putting up a credible fight on a night where they could have at least scored had they been more ruthless in the final third. Rodrygo struck twice in the second half as Los Blancos booked their place in the semi-finals with a comfortable 4-0 aggregate victory.
It was a big call to play Trevoh Chalobah in a game of this magnitude and given the way he was exposed for Real Madrid’s opener – it’s a decision that could be perceived as one that backfired.
The defender’s passing wasn’t up to scratch, and he struggled at times to read the speed of Rodrygo down the flank most notably for Real Madrid’s opening goal when he lunged in at the Brazilian.
He was left in a heap of the turf as the winger bared down on goal before eventually finishing off the move following good work from Vinicius and the same happened again around 10 minutes later when he took a clumsy swipe at the electric winger.
Cucurella threatened in attack, but he missed the biggest chance of the night for Chelsea when they really needed to score.
The Spaniard fired the ball straight at Thibaut Courtois right before half-time and had that gone in, it could have been a different contest.
He didn’t have the worst game, but it was a tie-defining moment where the Blues needed better.
Didier Drogba said pre-match that he no longer recognises his former club, but this was a performance that displayed encouraging signs for the future. There was an identity to this valiant effort, one that warrants praise.
Chelsea actually looked like a team that were willing to fight for the badge and that simply hasn’t been the case in recent weeks. They fought tooth and nail for every ball.
The Ivorian said prior to the contest: “I knew this club with a certain class during the Abramovich era, but today I find it lacking. It’s very hard for me to see how they got rid of certain people…
“They should go back to the principles and values they had. I don’t recognise my club anymore.”
While Drogba is likely to have been attacking the club’s scattergun approach under Todd Boehly, it appears he was also taking a swipe at the state of affairs on the field.
And while Chelsea have undoubtedly endured a nightmare season to forget, you have to give them credit for the way they approached this second leg showdown.
Had they been more clinical and decisive in certain moments of the game, they even might have got something.
Yes, there are problems upstiars but actually, this time might not be as far away as you think with a top manager at the helm.
Although it looked as though he still maybe carrying a knock, Reece James looked back to his best at right-back.
The England international had his hands full trying to deal with Vinicius Jr but he kept the Brazilian largely at bay, despite a major let-off in the first half.
Yet it wasn’t just James’ defensive stability that was impressive, it was also his ability to attack with conviction and devastation.
He went on a number of notable surges down the right flank and fizzed in a number of dangerous low balls that Chelsea were unable to covert.
James also displayed silky balance and immaculate close control as he used his speed to evade the Real Madrid press on the near touchline.
The right-back hasn’t looked fully fit since returning to the Chelsea first-team fold and while that remains true, this is the sharpest he has been all season.
The way he was driving with the ball was a sight to behold at times. He can be such an asset for both club and country moving forward if he continues to perform and operate at this level.
Former Chelsea goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois was forced to stomach a fair share of abuse in the first half as the home support taunted the Belgian with an offensive chant.
Yet it seemed to give him extra motivation in his attempts to keep Chelsea at bay.
The pantomime villain made an integral stop to deny Marc Cucurella an opener on the night right before the half-time whistle when he left across his goal like a cat.
Courtois’ name was then ringing out from the away end as Real Madrid supporters showed their appreciation for their world-class goalkeeper.
Just to stir the pot, Courtois even kissed the Real Madrid badge in front of the Matthew Harding End to crank up the atmosphere inside Stamford Bridge.
New role for Kante
N’Golo Kante was fielded high up the field from Frank Lampard in a bid to press Real Madrid aggressively. It was surely a first in his career.
The Frenchman, who caught the eye in the first leg defeat at the Bernabeu, seemed to be playing in a front three at times for the Blues in a bid to introduce some energy further up the field.
The decision very nearly quickly paid dividends when a loose ball fell to Kante in the box before he lashed his effort wide of the mark inside the opening exchanges.
Kante was playing off the leash and was a constant threat down the right flank as he continued to attack with freedom, delivering a number of crosses into the box.
The World Cup winner is known for his tackling ability and interceptions but now it appears Lampard is willing to reinvent him as a forward-thinking midfielder that can set the tone with his press – just as Maurizio Sarri once thought.
Full match player ratings below
Thibaut Courtois_9: Come the big nights, the Belgian will always be there. Made a game-defining save to deny Cucurella and keep Chelsea at bay.
Dani Carvajal_7: Produced another solid defensive performance in the Champions League knock out stages. The rest provided by Lucas on the weekends may be a big factor.
Eder Militao_8: Walked a tight rope after picking up a yellow card, but managed to defend well despite the handicap. Had a game high 8 clean races and made a vital block on a Kante shot from inside the box.
David Alaba_6: Taken off after the first half, but was important in the first 45 with his ability to play out of the back—unfrazzled by the high press from Gallagher and Havertz.
Eduardo Camavinga_7: Lampard tried to target the young Frenchman by providing overloads on Chelsea’s right flank through Reece James, Kante, and Havertz. As Anceotti mentioned in the presser, Chelsea managed 6 crosses from that flank in the first half, but was rectified with Valverde’s support in second half. The 20-year-old did foray forward on a few occasions, surprising the Chelsea backline with his speed.
Toni Kroos_8: The German seems to be enjoying his new role as the deepest midfielder. Played some dagger vertical passes in the first half to break Chelsea lines and was a calming presence on the ball.
Luka Modric_6: Did a lot of his work supporting the right flank and trying to press Enzo on the ball.
Fede Valverde_8.5: Grabbed an assist on the second Rodrygo goal and produced 3 key passes from midfield. Was a crucial cog in denying passing lanes and providing pressure in midfield.
Rodrygo_8.5: Kept his composure on one of the biggest stages, grabbing two goals in what will be another memorable UCL night for the Brazilian.
Vinicius JR_8: Completed 6 dribbles on the night and produced an assist for Rodrygo’s first goal.
Karim Benzema_5.5: Not as involved as he would have liked to have been — only 34 touches, 20 passes, and 2 shots. Frustrated when he was substituted out.
Antonio Rudiger_8: Looked up for the occasion with a return to Stamford Bridge. Got stuck into countless challenges and did not miss a beat replacing Alaba.
Tchouameni_6: Played final 20 minutes helping to shore up the midfield.
Dani Ceballos_6: Played the last 14 minutes, completing all 14 of his passes, a dribble, and one shot.
Marco Asensio_N/A: Late substitution for Rodrygo.
Nacho_N/A: Late substitution for Carvajal.