• May 29, 2023

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Real Madrid return to Champions League semis with win over Chelsea

Rodrygo scored a second-half brace for Real Madrid in a 2-0 victory over Chelsea at Stamford Bridge on Tuesday to seal a spot in the Champions League semifinals for the defending champions by a final aggregate score of 4-0.

It is the first time Chelsea have lost four matches in a row since 1993.

A cagey opening 45 minutes looked similar to Madrid’s 2-0 win in the first leg of the quarterfinal tie as Chelsea came out strong before the visitors settled into the game and were largely in control up to half-time.

Marc Cucurella should have scored just before the half, but a scampering Thibaut Courtois blocked his close-range strike after the Spaniard was left all alone at the far post and the teams went into the break tied 0-0.

“It isn’t easy to get to the semifinals or a final. In the last three years we’ve got to a lot of them,” Courtois said following the win. “Obviously when you play a semifinal and lose, like against [Chelsea] three years ago, you don’t celebrate it.

“We’re happy to get to a semifinal, which isn’t easy, but once you’re there, if you lose, it doesn’t feel like much.Our target is to go through and win.”

Any hopes Chelsea might have had of an improbable comeback were dashed when Rodrygo scored shortly before the hour mark — the celebrations starting well and truly in Madrid a little over 20 minutes later when the Brazilian doubled the lead for Carlo Ancelotti’s side.

“I don’t know how to explain it. I always say it’s a very special competition for me, every time I play I can help the team,” Rodrygo said after the match. “I’m happy and I hope to carry on like that, scoring more goals, providing more assists and winning the Champions League again.”

Rodrygo finished off a sweeping counter-attack against a helpless Chelsea, who have lost all four games since Frank Lampard returned as interim manager, skipping past Trevoh Chalobah’s wild lunge with his cross eventually played back to him by fellow Brazi international Vinicius Junior for him to slot home.

The closing stages were almost academic and Real turned on the style with Federico Valverde teeing up Rodrygo’s second that was the catalyst for a mass exodus of Chelsea fans from their home ground.

“It’s a pleasure to be here at Real Madrid, the biggest team in the world,” Rodrygo added. “We know we have almost the obligation to get to semifinals and finals and to win the Champions League. Since I arrived we’ve had that in our heads, we have to go far, we have to play well, and that’s what we’ve done since I’ve been here: we’ve gone far in this competition.”

While Chelsea’s season will end trophy-less under their new American owners despite a £500 million pounds ($621 million) outlay on new players, 14-times European champions Madrid march on with Ancelotti eyeing the trophy for a fifth time.

“We knew you have to suffer in this kind of game,” Ancelotti said. “They gave everything In the first half they caused us problems especially on the left, we fixed that in the second half. It’s normal to suffer, we had a good level, solid at the back. A good game, a deserved win, we’re very happy.”

Madrid did pick up one bit of bad news on an otherwise joyous night when Eder Militao picked up a yellow card that will keep him out of the first leg of the semifinals due to accumulation.

Ancelotti said: “A bit worried, going down to 10 men would have been difficult, but after that he had a spectacular game at the back. He’ll miss the first leg of the semifinal, but let’s hope we’ll have [David] Alaba back.”

Madrid will probable face Manchester City in the semifinals, with Pep Guardiola’s team leading Bayern Munich 3-0 in their quarterfinal with one leg to play.

Steve Carr

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