Benzema’s brilliance contrasts with Lukaku’s grief when Real Madrid seize Champions League quarter-final control

LONDON – At least Stamford Bridge has seen the main striker finally settle the big game.

The awkward truth for Chelsea and Thomas Tuchel is that 34-year-old Karim Benzema, who is somehow recovering with age, turned this match of the 1/4 finals of the Champions League, perhaps irreversibly in favor of Real Madrid after Wednesday’s 3 victory -1. The stunning hat-trick of the French national team consisted of two exquisite blows to the head, while the third blow was the reward for such pressure, which, according to some, the player fails in adulthood.

Choose Benzema’s excellent stats: 42 goals in his last 42 games, 13 in his last seven, 10 in his last four, the fourth player to ever score hat-tricks in the Champions League, and his 11 goals in the Champions League. one season is the highest for any Frenchman in the competition.

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“Every day is better than wine,” said Madrid coach Carlo Ancelotti, who arrived in London a few hours before the start after a negative COVID-19 test.

Benzema is a complete striker that Chelsea thought he bought from Ramel Lukaku. His first header combined laser precision with enough power to convert Vinicius Jr.’s cross in the 21st minute.

The second was perhaps better when he met Luka Modric’s accurate serve with his weight on the wrong foot, but somehow made a great attempt back through Chelsea goalkeeper Eduard Mendy.

Kai Havertz responded with his own header, realizing a great ball by Giorgino in the 40th minute, but less than a minute before the second half Benzema led Mehndi to a mistake, missing a pass to Antonio Rudiger. Benzema beat the central defender of “Chelsea” in the run-up and rolled the ball into the empty net.

Lukaku watched all of this from the bench, but was again omitted as a result of Chelsea providing enough evidence in recent weeks that they are now more powerful without the man they acquired to make them so.

He got into a fight right after the hour-long mark for the anonymous Christian Pulisic, and within five minutes the contrast with Benzema was sharp to the point of embarrassment.

Cesar Azpilicueta received the short corner, knocked it on to Lukaku who had the whole net open before him, but only managed to hit the post. His blow to the head was unconvincing and flew away harmlessly from the target.

“It was very important,” Tuchel said of Miss Lukaku. “There are no more away goals, so if we only have a deficit in one goal or a draw, you see that momentum comes back when we score. We could even equalize. There were a lot of places and chances. But the face of today’s decisions was far from our level of standards. “

Home spectators applauded Lukaku’s efforts, pouring out his anger at the glorious chance that was rejected.

They are already used to it. Later there was an even worse attempt, hopelessly past the target. In 26 minutes he managed four touches, although one of them set Hakim Zieh on a shot that flew past the gate.

Lukaku was signed at great expense – 115 million euros from Internazionale – for an obvious reason: to add ruthlessness to a team that usually turned down too many chances.

In the first 50 games of Tuchel, “Chelsea” maintained 31 net results, which is higher than any other team in the top five leagues in Europe.

It was this efficiency that led to an incredible triumph in the Champions League last season, but this time, given the dual mission of preserving the European crown and the Premier League championship, it was matching that resilience with a greater threat of attack.

Lukaku was signed as a sole decision, but the problem remains. Havertz has evolved into Chelsea’s leading attacker, sometimes with a 3-5-2 strike partner or alone in the overwhelming 3-4-2-1 Tuhel, but even in their six-game winning streak before the international break that sparked admiration, given the widespread uncertainty of the club’s ownership and its day-to-day functionality, they often do not possess the authority to attack that could reasonably be expected of them.

Tuhel occasionally moved into the top four in pursuit of a decision, and apparently regrets his lineup, recalling N’Gol Kante and Andreas Christensen instead of Matteo Kovacic and Zieha during a break in a series of changes to try to fix the game slipping away from them.

Christensen from the beginning was not at pace, he was not stopped by the pace and sharpness of Vinicius’ movements. Tuhel described the creation of this match with his lineup of 3-5-2 as “my mistake” and even took an unusual step, giving up the easy opportunity to talk about the prospect of revival in the second match.

Asked whether the tie was alive, Tuchel replied: “No, not at the moment. No. We have to return to our level. I don’t know where he is after the international break. The first half is a repeat of the second half against Brantford [a 4-1 home defeat] in the quarterfinals against Real Madrid. So far, we can’t expect a result from such performance in absolutely everything the game requires.

If we continue to play like this, we will lose at Southampton and then get hit at the Bernabeu.

Of course, this can never be blamed on Lukaku alone. He is simply a participant in a problem that Tuchel has been struggling with for some time, one that has been revealed here because of Real Madrid’s excellent showing of the first half and a few individual mistakes no more harmful than Mehndi’s mistake within 45 seconds of restarting.

And in Lukaku’s defense, none of Tuhel’s substitutions worked particularly well. Ruben Loftus-Chick, who replaced Georgino at the same time as the introduction of Lukaku, was a surprising challenge given the importance of the Italian to the team.

Understandably, Rhys James was only rusty during his second start since December due to injury, and the collective weakness on Chelsea’s right flank was a vulnerability they could not disguise.

In fact, extreme defenders are vital to Tuchel’s approach, and if James is clearly not at his best and Aspilicueta is unable to make the same threat as Ben Chillwell, it certainly contributes to any explanation for why the blues fought.

As the 30-year-old Real Madrid midfielder trio Modric, Tony Kroos and Kazemira became tired, Chelsea’s persistence created several promising positions – Real Madrid goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois, who has been on the move since returning to Stamford Bridge, made one great save. from Aspilicueta – but otherwise lacked quality in front of the goal, which Tuhel admits too well. Something must change, otherwise their aspirations to the Champions League will be the next victim.

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