On one of Spain’s most hallowed soccer grounds, Chelsea came close to discovering the proper English translation of La Remontada—that is, until Karim Benzema tormented the Blues once again.
After Benzema’s 25-minute hat trick at Stamford Bridge seemed to bury the defending European champion with a 3–1 aggregate, Chelsea made sure to bring some away fireworks of its own by forcing extra time.
But in the 96th minute, Benzema added to his legend with the match-winner in an epic Champions League tie that will go down in history.
Mason Mount kicked off the Chelsea comeback in the 15th minute when he followed up Timo Werner’s chipped pass by curling a shot into the back of the net to heap pressure on Real Madrid.
Coming out of the halftime break, Chelsea looked determined for an equalizer and found it courtesy of Antonio Rüdiger. On a corner in the 51st minute, Mount found the center back with a pinpoint cross as Rüdiger delivered with a powerful header to add a massive spark to Chelsea’s comeback attempt.
Just minutes later, the Blues ran off into the corner in raucous celebration after Marcos Alonso appeared to give Chelsea the aggregate lead. But after a VAR review, the match officials called off the goal as Alonso appeared to handle the ball before sending the chance into the back of the net with a powerful volley.
The gravity of Alonso’s goal appeared to wake Real Madrid from its slumber. In the 66th minute, Benzema nearly notched his fourth goal of the tie when his header glanced off the crossbar.
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But Chelsea wouldn’t have to wait long to take the lead with Werner providing the heroics in the 76th minute. The German international, who received the start over Christian Pulisic, danced around the Real penalty area while sending defenders to the ground before seeing his shot deflected into goal for the 4–3 aggregate lead.
But the entertaining tie was far from over. Rodrygo would pull one back for Real Madrid with a stunning volley on a long cross in the 80th minute to level the aggregate score. The goal was set up by an exquisite outside-of-the-boot pass from Luka Modrić, setting the stage for a furious finish.
After a pressure-packed final 10 minutes, which included two close chances from Pulisic, the match headed to extra time with at least 30 more minutes needed to determine who advances to the semifinals.
Yet Benzema, the first-leg hero who went dormant for long stretches of the second leg, brought the Bernabéu to its feet with his extra-time goal in the 96th minute. The Frenchman scored his fourth goal of the tie when he headed in Vinicius’s cross into the box, taking advantage of a slip from Rüdiger as he ran to mark Benzema to give Real a 5–4 aggregate lead.
In the semifinals, Real Madrid will face the winner of the Manchester City vs. Atlético Madrid tie with City coming into its second leg away match with a 1–0 lead.
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George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism