regular-article-logo Monday, 02 October 2023

Champions League: Karim Benzema haunts Chelsea again

Victory puts Real Madrid in driving seat but keeper Courtois demands more

Reuters Madrid Published 14.04.23, 07:29 AM
Karim Benzema.

Karim Benzema. File photo

A tap-in by Karim Benzema and a powerful strike by substitute Marco Asensio earned European champions Real Madrid a 2-0 win over 10-man Chelsea in their Champions League quarter final, first leg, in the Spanish capital on Wednesday.

Benzema, the scourge of Chelsea at the same stage of the competition last season, converted from point blank range in the 21st minute when Kepa Arrizabalaga saved from Vinicius Junior but could only touch the ball in the direction of the Frenchman.


It was Benzema's 90th Champions League goal with the last 11 all coming against English clubs.

Chelsea — under caretaker coach Frank Lampard after a dismal season so far — went close to scoring in the first half but Joao Felix and Raheem Sterling were thwarted by Madrid goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois playing against his former club.

The Londoners' chances of getting back into the game suffered a major setback in the 59th minute when Ben Chilwell was shown a straight red card for bringing down Rodrygo with a tug of the Brazilian's shirt when he was bearing down on goal.

Asensio had been on the field for just three minutes when he was fed by Vinicius on the edge of the box and the Spain international drilled in a low shot that went through the legs of Chelsea defender Wesley Fofana and beyond Kepa's dive.

The win at the Santiago Bernabeu stadium puts the 14-time European champions in the driver's seat ahead of the second leg at Stamford Bridge on April 18.

Benzema, who scored a hat-trick in London last year before getting another in Madrid in a 5-4 aggregate thriller, could have effectively seen off Chelsea in added time at the end of the second half when he headed over with the goal at his mercy after Kepa could only punch the ball as far as him.

Chelsea substitute Mason Mount then came close to a crucial goal for the Blues when he turned and shot in the penalty area but former teammate Antonio Rudiger, also on off the bench, raced in to block.

In the end, the Londoners failed to scored for a fourth match in a row — three of them in the Premier League — their longest barren run since 1993.

Courtois said teammates were annoyed they had not put the tie to bed.

"Every time you play a big knockout match you're left with the sensation that you could have, should have, killed the tie off," Courtois said.

"This is a good result but we're bugged by the fact that we didn't score a third or even a fourth goal. I hope we don't regret not having added another when we play again next week."

"They threatened us with a good start to the match where they counter-attacked well," the 30-year-old Belgian said.

He said Real would approach next week's second leg at Stamford Bridge as if the scores were level.

"We'll try to start well and powerfully next week. Our objective is to score first and to win again," he said.

Narrow lead

In the other match of the night, AC Milan took a big step towards their first Champions League semi-final appearance for 16 years as Ismael Bennacer's goal secured a 1-0 home win over Napoli.

On a rainy night, Serie A leaders Napoli's first European clash with Milan was also their first appearance in the quarter finals of Europe's most prestigious club competition.

"I am above all happy to enjoy evenings like this with our fans," AC Milan manager Stefano Pioli told Sky Sport Italia after his side kept a fifth consecutive clean sheet in the Champions League for the first time since 2004-05.

"The history of Milan speaks to many victories, but the recent years saw us dream of getting here, so we wanted to enjoy it.

"We didn’t build out well from the back at the start, giving Napoli the chance to hurt us, but we got the first home win over Napoli in three years."

Attempting to avenge their 4-0 home defeat by Milan in Serie A this month, Napoli began pressing immediately.

Napoli had their first chance when the Milan defence failed to clear a low ball across the goal, but Khvicha Kvaratskhelia's attempt was blocked on the line.

Napoli midfielder Piotr Zielinski fired in a thunderous effort on goal, but Milan keeper Mike Maignan tipped it over the crossbar.

Milan's first opportunity came from striker Rafael Leao, who took the ball in his own half and made a solo run into the Napoli box before shooting just past the far post.

Although Napoli dominated most of the first half, the hosts took the lead five minutes before the interval when Brahim Diaz teed up Bennacer who struck a low shot inside the far post.

Napoli's situation worsened 16 minutes from time when midfielder Andre-Frank Zambo Anguissa received a second yellow card.

Milan are the only team to beat Napoli more than once this season in all competitions ahead of the second leg of the quarter-final clash on April 18.

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