By Paul Lagan at Stamford Bridge
Chelsea 1 v Real Madrid 3
Chelsea’s grip on their Champions League trophy is hanging by their fingertips as they were clinically dismantled 3-1 by a sharp counter-attacking Real Madrid tonight at Stamford Bridge and with a little help from goalkeeper Edourad Mendy who gifted Madrid their third.
Karim Benzema snatched a hat-trick, the first were two sensational headers that gave Mendy little chance. The third, seconds into the second half was self-inflicted as Mendy lost concentration and the ball, allowing the France hitman to snatch it off him and roll the ball into the empty net.
Madrid took a two-goal lead before Kai Havertz brought the west Londoners back into the game.
Any sense of a turnaround in fortune at half-time when head coach Thomas Tuchel brought on Mateo Kovacic and Hakim Ziyech wasn’t given a chance with the Mendy howler.
Chelsea started the brighter, showing high tempo, while Madrid, were happy to hit on the break.
Kai Havertz had the first chance for the Blues on five minutes, breaking clear following a fine through ball by N’Golo Kante.
But his effort, on target, was blocked by David Alaba.
On a swift break on 10 minutes, Madrid cut Chelsea apart at the back. And when Thiago Silva slipped, he let in Vinicius, who took one touch before slamming a venomous right footer that smacked off Mendy’s crossbar.
Reece James had a fine free-kick saved by Ex-Chelsea stopper Thibaut Courtois on 16 minutes after Havertz was hauled down on the edge of the visitors’ penalty area.
Chelsea were left shocked on 22 minutes after Madrid took the lead in clinical fashion.
Benzema picked the ball up in midfield, put a slide-rule pass into Vinicius on the left. The winger then clipped the ball back to in-running Benzema, who produced a wonderful header to zip past Mendy.
It got worse two minutes later when the France striker produced another sensational header that left Mendy gasping in midair as it sailed past him following a terrific pass from the evergreen Luka Modric.
Silva saw a glancing header inch high and wide of Courtois’s goal on 39 minutes as the Blues went in desperate search of a goal to give them a toe-hold in the game.
Sixty seconds later and they got it. Jorginho clipped over a regulation ball and this time Havertz was first to it and sent a powerful header past Courtois.
Benzema missed a sitter to get a hat-trick with three minutes left on the clock, sending the ball wide of Mendy’s goal.
Chelsea head coach Thomas Tuchel brought on Kovacic and Ziyech at half-time. Kante and Christensen failed to materialise from the tunnel, with Chelsea reverting to a back four.
But disaster struck in the first minute when a simple back pass to Mendy, saw the Senegal stopper under hit his side pass to Toni Rudiger and Benzema snapped the quickest, nabbed the ball and slotted it into an empty net to restore the two-goal lead for the Spanish outfit.
Skipper Cesar Azpilicueta thought he had pulled another back on 50 minutes, but his edge of the box screamer was acrobatically tipped away for a corner by Courtois.
Tuchel gave it 15 minutes before bringing on Romelu Lukaku and Ruben Loftus-Cheek – Jorginho and Pulisic made way.
Lukaku’ s first touch, on 69 minutes saw him free in the six-yard box but he somehow managed to head wide of Courtois’s goal.
This was followed quickly by a curler of a Mason Mount shot – but again just high and wide of goal.
Madrid then resorted to time-wasting tactics and it served them well as they saw out the five additional minutes.
Teams: Chelsea, Mendy, Rudiger, Christensen, Jorginho, Silva, Kante, Pulisic, Mount, James, Havertz
Subs: Kepa, Bettinelli, Alonso, Kovacic, Lukaku, Werner, Loftus-Cheek, Chalobah, Saul, Ziyech, Kenedy, Sarr
Real Madrid, Courtois, Carvajel, Militao, Alana, Kroos, Benzema, Modric, Casemiro, Valverde, Junior, Mendy
Subs; Lunin, Fuidias, Vallejo, Nacho, Asensio, Marcelo, Vazquez, Bale, Ceballos, Rodrygo, Diaz, Camavinga
Referee: Clement Turpin (France)