Chelsea made an excellent start to the game, and created two wonderful counter-attacking opportunities in the first five minutes. But João Félix was unable to make a 1-v-1 count, and then a 3-v-3 went begging as well.
The teams then traded early yellows on the same flank, Fofana and Camavinga, showing where the dangermen for both sides were.
But Chelsea’s initial excellence ebbed away as Real slowly exerted more control, not helped by our propensity to give the ball away far too frequently and in far too dangerous positions. And it was from one of those turnovers that Madrid would work a quick chance, Carvajal lobbing the ball over the top for Vini Jr to poke at goal. Kepa got a hand to it, but could only divert it into the path of that man, Karim Benzema, who didn’t miss the tap-in.
Chelsea responded almost immediately, but Thibaut Courtois made his annual dagger-to-the-heart save when it looked like Raheem Sterling would easily score from James’s cross. At the other end, Thiago Silva cleared acrobatically to keep the deficit at just one.
After that breakneck opening 25, the rest of the first-half was a bit less high octane, with the home side largely in control and Chelsea not really able to get a foothold — and still turning the ball over far too often.
Chelsea showed some renewed impetus at the start of the second half, but it were the home side who created better opportunities. Then Koulibaly picked up a knock on a desperate defensive play, which started a tragic chain of events: Cucurella coming on for him, losing his man, and Chilwell taking the red card for the denial of a clear goal-scoring opportunity by pulling back Rodrygo.
Ten-man Chelsea tried to hold out and limit the damage, but Real would find a second goal, Asensio guiding a well-placed shot through two static defenders and a late-diving goalkeeper. Mount came close to snatching a late consolation, but Rüdiger made a tremendous block to deny us that joy.
And so, we head into the second leg down two goals once again, just like last year.
- Back-three with a midfield-three for Lampard, with Sterling and Félix the runners up top. It was a solid and reasonable plan, but the execution was lacking.
- First game that Silva and Kanté have been able to start together since mid-August.
- Koulibaly hamstring now a concern
- 3-5-1/5-3-1 after the red, with Cucurella quickly moved out of the back-three. Switch to a back-four after the 2-0.
- Fifth straight game without a win. Fourth straight game without a goal.
- Next up: at home to brighton on Saturday; then the second leg next Tuesday