Get all your news in one place.
100’s of premium titles.
One app.
Start reading
Irish Independent
Irish Independent
Miguel Delaney

Real leave Chelsea down but not out

Rodrygo of Real Madrid is fouled by Ben Chilwell of Chelsea, which resulted in a red card for Chilwell. Photo: Florence Tan Jun/Getty Images

A scoreline that could have been much worse, but from a match that fully showed how emphatically superior Real Madrid were.

Chelsea may well have seen a two-goal deficit as some way respectable before this game, given everything that has happened for both of these clubs in the last year, but the reality is they are going to have to overcome a lot more than that.

Frank Lampard will no doubt point to how they were two goals down to Napoli in that season-turning tie back in 2011-’12 but this isn’t 2012 and Real Madrid very much are not that Napoli.

Carlo Ancelotti’s side looked very much the champions of Europe here. That might make the scale of the defeat feel respectable for Chelsea, and the sort of performance where they will talk of pride in the effort, but they were chasing a far better team all night. It was a lesson in so many senses.

Madrid looked like they treated it as if they were in the schoolyard.

The main threat seems like it might be complacency, but even that feels far-fetched given Chelsea went yet another game without scoring.

There was an unmistakable arrogance to how Madrid played, which itself was a vintage illustration of how winning the Champions League actually elevated this young team to another level. It was very different to how Carlo Ancelotti’s side approached this fixture last season.

Then again, it is a very different Chelsea, who have gone through so much since then.

So has Lampard.

Some of Madrid’s arrogance might admittedly have been down to how naive Chelsea’s starting tactics seemed. Lampard put out what seemed a protective formation, only for his team to be strikingly open.

There was so much space for Madrid to go at. Vinicius Junior and Karim Benzema were shredding their backline, interlinking for some wonderfully intricate moves that would inevitably see the Brazilian tearing away at speed.

It was just as inevitable that these two would combine for the opening goal. With Vinicius opening Chelsea further through his movement alone, Dani Carvajal clipped a ball over the top and the Brazilian looked to guide a shot towards goal.

Kepa Arrizabalaga couldn’t hold it and there, of course, was Benzema. That made it his 11th goal in eight matches against English sides in the last year.

There was the constant threat of more.

The only danger on the other side was that Madrid’s arrogance left them more open than usual.

Ancelotti also has them playing 15 yards further up the pitch without Casemiro there.

While he would usually have Eduardo Camavinga there, the Madrid manager instead opted to put the midfielder to left-back. Reece James did look like he had the beating of Camavinga.

The offset was that any time James even moved five yards forward, Vinicius was ready to launch. He definitely had the beating of the right-back in this match.

It made Chelsea’s willingness to step up all the more risky. Madrid were always on the brink of breaking. A Chelsea defender always looked on the brink of breaking point.

So it was when Federico Valverde played a ball over the top for Rodrygo and Ben Chilwell evidently felt he had no choice but to pull him down.

There were again questions to be asked about Chelsea’s defensive shape, and now Lampard had to find a solution to being a man down.

It really just meant it wasn’t long until he had to find a solution to being 2-0 down.

The manner of it might irritate Lampard, though. Marco Asensio had so much space at the edge of the box and just fired it through Chelsea’s backline and Kepa Arrizabalaga.

Many of Lampard’s players might have done better for that goal, but the real issue was that it could have already been so much worse. Madrid had so much control.

It was the natural difference between one team who have been intelligently constructed to an idea over three years and one who have almost thrown a second squad on top of their long-standing squad and brought back a caretaker manager who wasn’t good enough in the first place.

This was why, despite relative similarities in terms of overall quality, this tie was being talked about as if Chelsea needed to completely rely on the intangible and unexplainable sensations that the Champions League often produces.

It was just that, here, they were up against a club who monopolise that.

They almost had a monopoly of the ball in this game. It is going to take more than a sensation for Chelsea to turn this around.

Sign up to read this article
Read news from 100’s of titles, curated specifically for you.
Already a member? Sign in here
Related Stories
Top stories on inkl right now
One subscription that gives you access to news from hundreds of sites
Already a member? Sign in here
Our Picks
Fourteen days free
Download the app
One app. One membership.
100+ trusted global sources.