Benzema dazzles as Madrid beat Chelsea; Villarreal stun Bayern
Karim Benzema continued his rampant form this season, with his hat trick leading Real Madrid to a 3-1 win over Chelsea in their Champions League quarterfinal first leg on a rainy Wednesday night at Stamford Bridge.
The Champions League holders had the better of the opening 20 minutes, but it was Real that opened the scoring when Benzema smashed a header into the top corner of Edouard Mendy’s goal from a stellar cross by Vinicius Junior.
Benzema doubled the lead for Carlo Ancelotti’s side minutes later with another gorgeous header, leaning back and lofting his effort from Luka Modric’s pinpoint pass over the outstretched arms of Mendy to make it 2-0 to the visitors before 25 minutes.
Chelsea hit back just before the break, though, as Thibaut Courtois could only watch Kai Havertz power a header of his own from Jorginho’s delightful chipped-in ball past him to halve the deficit for Thomas Tuchel’s side after 45 thrilling minutes.
Tuchel made two changes after the break — bringing on Mateo Kovacic for Andreas Christensen and Hakim Ziyech for N’Golo Kante — but it was Real who started the second half in style as Benzema completed his hat trick thanks to a Mendy blunder that allowed the Frenchman to shoot into a wide-open net.
“They’re very important goals. I’m happiest to have scored the third as I missed one in the first half and I was thinking about that chance because it’s very important to score goals. Then I got another and I’m very happy,” Benzema said after the match.
“Today we came out to win, to show we’re Real Madrid. Things worked out well for us as we played well, from the first minute to the last.”
Benzema’s three goals took his tally to 36 across all competitions on the season, second only to the 45 Robert Lewandowski has scored for Bayern Munich in Europe’s top-five leagues, while breaking his own record as the oldest player to score a UCL hat trick at 34 years, 108 days.
The struggling Romelu Lukaku came on for Christian Pulisic in the 64th minute and had a glorious chance soon after to cut into Real’s lead, but his glancing header from close range squirted wide of Courtois’ far post.
The result means it’s advantage Real — who rode a Benzema hat trick to an unlikely round-of-16 rally past PSG — as the two teams prepare to meet again on Tuesday at the Santiago Bernabeu for the decisive second leg and a spot in the UCL semifinals.
Villarreal stun Bayern
Villarreal inflicted Bayern Munich’s first away defeat in the Champions League for almost five years as they took a 1-0 advantage from their quarterfinal first leg at the Estadio de la Ceramica on Wednesday.
Arnaut Danjuma scored the only goal of the game after just eight minutes as he turned in a shot from Dani Parejo in front of Manuel Neuer.
The better team for most of the contest, particularly in the first half, Villarreal was left to regret not adding to their advantage ahead of next week’s decisive second leg in Munich.
“Our team is very hungry and humble,” man-of-the-match Giovani Lo Celso told Movistar Plus. “But we faced one of the best teams in the world and we go out with the sensation that we should have scored several more goals.
Still, Tuesday’s victory is an achievement in itself against a club that had not lost on the road in the Champions League for a record 22 games, dating back to a loss to Paris Saint-Germain in 2017.
Bayern, the runway Bundesliga leaders seeking a seventh Champions League title, had a massive edge in form and European pedigree against the seventh-placed team in Spain playing in Europe’s premier competition for just the fourth time.
But Bayern struggled to cope with Villarreal’s compact shape, counter-attacking and intensity on both sides of the ball.
Villarreal twice came inches away from adding to their lead, first when VAR ruled Francis Coquelin to be just offside before his cross drifted into the back of Neuer’s net and then when Gerard Moreno smashed a 25-yard shot against the bottom of the post in the second half.
But, after seeing off Juventus in the previous round, Villarreal now has another European giant-killing firmly in their sights.
“We know that it will be a completely different game in Germany,” captain Parejo told reporters.
“We had at least five opportunities to score, they didn’t create a single one. That says a lot about what we are capable of. So we will go there and compete with the same passion.” (ESPN, Reuters)