Real Madrid beat Chelsea 3-1 in the Champions League quarter-final first leg, with Karim Benzema scoring a hat-trick; just one team in the competition’s history has come back from a two-goal deficit in the first leg at home.
After Real Madrid exposed their defensive flaws to take a 3-1 quarter-final lead, Thomas Tuchel admitted Chelsea’s Champions League defense was doomed.
After yet another match-winning performance from Benzema, Real Madrid manager Carlo Ancelotti lauded the striker and said his team is “fortunate to have him.”
On Wednesday night, Benzema became only the fourth player in Champions League history to score back-to-back hat-tricks, following his treble against Paris Saint-Germain in the previous round.
However, Ancelotti was quick to point out that it is not just his goal-scoring ability that distinguishes him.
“Benzema is a very complete player – not just a striker,” Ancelotti stated after the game.
“Like wine, he improves with age. Every day, he improves as a leader and realizes how essential he is to the team and the club. This, I believe, is what distinguishes him; he now has a stronger personality, he recognizes his importance as a player, and he serves as an example to everyone.
“He scores a lot of goals, which is crucial, but he also assists the team a lot in possession. He is always in the right place at the right time. We consider ourselves really fortunate to have him.”
For the second leg, Ancelotti, a former Chelsea manager, is refusing to underestimate the defending European champions.
He went on to say, “I think Chelsea is a terrific club with fantastic players.” “I still believe that the next game would be difficult for them. We are concentrating on this.
“We certainly have the upper hand, but the outcome remains uncertain. Chelsea benefits from the elimination of the away-goal rule. We hold them in high regard because they are an excellent team. Tonight, Madrid was the superior squad, but there is still time for anything to happen.”
The reigning European champions must overturn a two-goal deficit in their return to the Bernabeu next week to have any chance of defending their title. Karim Benzema scored two spectacular first-half headers and punished Edouard Mendy’s error to put Real in command after his hat-trick in consecutive Champions League appearances.
Chelsea’s chances of reaching the semi-finals are slim, with only one of the previous 43 teams trailing by two or more goals in a Champions League knockout encounter having overcome such a deficit away from home in the competition’s history.