Karim Benzema stunner cancels out Christian Pulisic strike as Chelsea earn draw in Madrid – Eurosport.com

Karim Benzema became the joint-fourth highest scorer in Champions League history as Real Madrid came from behind to earn a 1-1 draw with Chelsea in the first-leg of a finely-poised semi final in Spain.

The French star cushioned a header into his own path and flashed home a superb equaliser on 29 minutes after Christian Pulisic had shown excellent composure to round Thibaut Courtois and give the visitors an early lead.

Chelsea were by the far the superior team in the opening stages and could have doubled their advantage, but the game turned more even following Benzema’s moment of magic. It was the Real forward’s 71st goal in the competition and saw him draw level with Madrid legend, Raul.

MADRID, SPAIN – APRIL 27: MADRID, SPAIN – APRIL 27: Karim Benzema of Real Madrid scores their side’s first goal during the UEFA Champions League Semi Final First Leg match between Real Madrid and Chelsea FC at Estadio Alfredo Di Stefano on April 27, 2021

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The hosts looked to fit-again Eden Hazard with 24 minutes remaining but he could not inspire Zinedine Zidane’s men to snatch a winning goal from the bench at the expense of his former club.

Chelsea will now host Fulham on Saturday prior to the second leg of this tie at Stamford Bridge next Wednesday. Real Madrid are at home to Osasuna.

TALKING POINT

Advantage Chelsea. Tuchel will be delighted with how his side performed but may be a tad frustrated that they did not claim the first-leg lead much of their play arguably deserved. The Blues bossed the opening 25 minutes or so and could have scored again had Timo Werner and Co been more ruthless in front of goal. Only a touch of inspiration from Benzema turned the tide, but Chelsea do have the away goal and will quietly fancy their chances of making the final from here.

Chelsea’s players celebrate their opening goal scored by Chelsea’s American midfielder Christian Pulisic during the UEFA Champions League semi-final first leg football match between Real Madrid and Chelsea at the Alfredo di Stefano stadium in Valdebebas,

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Real were slow to get going and will need to call upon all of their Champions League know-how and produce one of their best performances of the season to come through this tie. They’ve done it before and you can’t rule the 13-time winners out, especially as they will probably be content with a 1-1 draw given the way the game went.

MAN OF THE MATCH

N’Golo Kante (Chelsea). The Blues midfielder was everywhere. Typically solid in his shielding role while his powerful running and industry going forward was a nuisance for the Real rearguard. Pulisic will get much credit for his goal but Kante’s contribution should not be overlooked across the whole 90 minutes.

N’Golo Kante of FC Chelsea and Toni Kroos of Real Madrid battle for the ball during the UEFA Champions League Semi Final First Leg match between Real Madrid and Chelsea at Estadio Alfredo Di Stefano on April 27, 2021 in Madrid, Spain

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PLAYER RATINGS

REAL MADRID: Courtois 7, Marcelo 6, Nacho 6, Militao 7, Varane 7, Carvajal 6, Casemiro 7, Modric 7, Kroos 7, Vinicius 6, Benzema 8. Subs: Hazard 6, Asensio 6, Odriozola 6, Rodrygo n/a.

CHELSEA: Mendy 7, Azpilicueta 7, Christensen 7, Rudiger 7, Silva 7, Chilwell 7, Jorginho 7, Kante 8, Mount 7, Werner 6, Pulisic 8. Subs: Havertz 6, Ziyech 6, James 6.

Matchcast: Full match stats and commentary

KEY MOMENTS

10’ – CHELSEA CHANCE! Courtois pulls off a top save with his feet to deny Werner after the German met Mount’s knockdown from a Pulisic cross with a first-time effort from close range.

14’ – GOAL! – Real Madrid 0-1 Chelsea. Pulisic shows great composure to take down Rudiger’s ball over the top, round the keeper and lash a firm shot beyond the defender’s on the line. Real’s defence were caught cold by a simple run from deep there.

23’ – REAL MADRID CHANCE! Real finally offer a response. Benzema turns into space 25 yards out and rockets in a wonderful shot that clips the far post.

29’ – GOAL! – Real Madrid 1-1 Chelsea. The hosts level out of the blue. Benzema’s touch, spin and volley comes after a couple of flick-ons caught Chelsea out from a short corner routine.

87’ – REAL MADRID CHANCE! Kroos has a pop from range. It takes a deflection and sizzles narrowly wide. Varane meets the resulting corner with a diving header but can’t guide it on target.

KEY STATS

Pulisic is the first American player to score in a Champions League semi-final, while he’s also the youngest Chelsea player to score in a semi-final match in the competition (22y 221d).

Benzema scored his 71st goal in the UEFA Champions League, making him the joint-fourth top scorer in the competition’s history (along with Raúl). Only Cristiano Ronaldo, Lionel Messi and Robert Lewandowski have now scored more than the Frenchman.

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