Blues with one foot in Champions League final after tense 1-1 draw away to Real Madrid
By Paul Lagan
Real Madrid 1v Chelsea 1
Christian Pulisic rammed home a vital away goal for Chelsea in a tense 1-1 draw against Real Madrid in the first leg of the Champions League semi-final tonight.
The west Londoners were excellent throughout and throughly deserve to return to Stamford Bridge next week, needing a win or a 0-0 draw to go into the final in Istanbul at the end of May.
Had Timo Werner being more clinical up front, the Blues could have taken a lead back with them to London.
As it was it was the US talisman Pulisic who struck after 13 minutes.
The winger was a constant threat in the first half. He faded in the second.
Timo Werner should have scored on 10 minutes after excellent set up play involving Mason Mount and Christian Pulisic. The German was free six yards out but conspired to smack his effort straight at ex-Chelsea goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois who kicked the ball to safety.
Ut within three minutes, Pulisic showed brilliant composure, firstly to beat the offside trap from a Toni Rudiger through ball. He then rounded Courtois before crashing the ball home past two defenders to give the west Londoners a sensational lead.
Madrid almost levelled on 23 minutes when Karim Benzema let fly from 25 yards. his left-footer beat Mendy but skimmed off the outside of his left upright.
But the Frenchman showed his class to bicycle kick home on 30 minutes.
There were no changes at half-time.
The home side, playing at their training ground as the Santiago Bernabeu Stadium is under redevelopment, started the restart much better. Chelsea looked sluggish and lacked composure.
Having played the same starting 11 as the one at the weekend in the 1-0 win at West Ham, head coach Thomas Tuchel made. Triple substitution of 65 minutes. Off came Pulisic, Werner and Azpilicueta, on came Reece James, Hakim Ziyech and Kai Havertz.
Madrid then brought on ex-Chelsea star Eden Hazard for Vinicius Junior.
Immediately, the Blues looked more assured on the ball.
Raphael Varane saw a low header in he wide of Mendy left post on 85 minutes as Madrid sought a late winner.
The Spanish outfit will be happy with the draw.
The second leg is at Stamford Bridge on Wednesday.
They were not clinical enough up front, Benzema being the exception, and they will have Sergio Ramos back from injury and will have and extra week to get Hazard fully fit.
Teams: Chelsea, Mendy, Azpilicueta, Christensen, Rudiger, Silva, Chilwell, Jorginho, Mount, Pulisic, Werner.
subs: Kepa, Caballero, Alonso, Emerson, James, Zouma, Gilmour, Havertz, Hudson-Odoi, Ziyech, Abraham, Giroud
Real Madrid, Courtois, Militao, Varane, Nacho, Carvalho, Madrid, Casemiro, Kroos , Marcelo, Benzema, VInicius Junior,
Subs, Hazard, Asensio, Lenin, Odriozola, Isco, Mariano, Rodrigo, Altube, Blanco, Gutierrez
Referee: Danny Makkelie (Netherlands)