Thursday, September 28

UEFA Champions League scores: Karim Benzema stars for Real Madrid against Chelsea; Villarreal’s defense shines

Real Madrid won 3-1 against Chelsea after an outstanding performance from Karim Benzema who scored another hat trick while in Spain, Villarreal won 1-0 at home against Bayern Munich in one of the most surprising results of the year.

Real Madrid take the first leg

It was an exciting clash at Stanford Bridge between Chelsea and Real Madrid. The home team started off lively and they tried to control the game but it was Karim Benzema’s night, as it has been so many times this season. Despite not having many chances (Benzema scores his three goals on four total shots), the French striker was absolutely clinical and scored the opening goal of the match after twenty minutes. Benzema’s combination of him with his teammate Vinicius Jr. was just perfect and his header of him was impossible to stop for Mendy.

Before Chelsea even had the time to realize what hit them, Luka Modric found Benzema once again between the lines and the French striker scored his second goal of the night. Chelsea fans hoped that Kai Havertz’s goal at the end of the first half could give them a way back in the second half but the dream lasted only a few seconds. Just after half time, a dreadful Edouard Mendy mistake gifted Benzema his hat trick on a plate and he didn’t miss the opportunity to score his 82nd goal in the Champions League. Chelsea chased the game until the final whistle looking to score at least one goal and make their second leg task a little less Herculean but Thibaut Courtois prevented them and next to Benzema was one Real Madrid’s most important contributors.

A big surprise in Spain

Villarreal have the advantage heading to Germany after beating Bayern Munich 1-0 at Estadio de la Ceramica on Wednesday in the opening leg of their Champions League quarterfinal tie. Arnaut Danjuma’s early goal ultimately made the difference as Unai Emery’s men did everything but score a second goal, and even that they almost accomplished as Francis Coquelin’s effort found the back of the net but was ruled out thanks to VAR while Gerard Moreno hit the post. Julian Nagelsmann’s men looked out of sorts from the off and Manuel Neuer will be grateful that Coquelin’s goal was chalked off as it was a major error judgment from the Bayern captain. Ultimately, a one-goal lead is a fragile advantage but an advantage all the same and Villarreal will go to Bavaria confident that they can see the tie off by holding the Bundesliga giants or better.

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Valiant Villarreal

Emery really has his team believing that they can equal their 2005-06 Champions League semifinal outing and that belief can be hard to break once it sets in so Bayern have their work cut out for them ahead of leg two. This was a strong Villarreal defensive performance, forcing Bayern to take 13 of their 22 shots from outside the box. No small task as Bayern take close to 70% of all their attempts from inside the penalty areas this season. This was no fluke from Emery’s men, who won the expected goal battle as well, 1.48 to 1.26.

Benzema is unbelievable

What more is there to say about Benzema. The French striker scored his second hat trick in a row after dominating the second leg of the round of 16 against PSG. Six goals in two matches kind of speaks for itself. Currently Benzema is one of, if not the, the best striker in the world and today he has proved it again. Benzema has scored 82 goals in this competition and this year he has already scored eleven goals in Champions League’s matches, his best season ever. All three goals were different as well. On the first one, he’s the creator as well as the finisher as he’s the one who passed the ball to Vinicius Jr. in space, then he runs and he’s in the right position to receive the assist. The second one was just pure technique, contorting his body to find a header that the laws of physics shouldn’t allow, while the last one, pouncing on Mendy’s error shows that he’s cynical but also very smart to be in the right place even just a few seconds after the match restarted.

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Bummed out Bayern

It was a rare away defeat for Nagelsmann’s men in Europe but they can have few complaints as they were second best to pretty much everything and almost looked surprised at times by how much desire Villarreal were showing. The losses raise real questions about whether Bayern belong to the very upper echelons of the Champions League contenders (although they were certainly not the only team on the night to face those questions). Bayern’s calling card is their attack, they can be vulnerable to counterattacks but the thing they rely on is creating buckets of chances. Villarreal took that away from them. In recent seasons only Liverpool, Atletico Madrid and Dynamo Kyiv (in a meaningless group stage match in the snow) have held them to a lower xG total than Villarreal did here.

emery enterprise

The Spaniard has had his critics after his PSG and Arsenal spells, but this Villarreal adventure is a real feelgood story which has seen El Submarino Amarillo claim their first continental silverware last season in the Europa League and now stand on the verge of another Champions League semifinal after their 2006 appearance.

Select Player Ratings:

Juan Foyth, Villarreal — A superb defensive display up against the likes of Alphonso Davies and although the hosts were collectively impeccable, they were particularly impressive defensively. Rating: 8

Alphonso Davies, Bayern — Only just back from injury, the Canada international was busy at both ends as he tried to make things happen going forward for the Germans and made crucial interventions at the back. Rating: 6

Geronimo Rulli, Villarreal — In a story of two goalkeepers, the home shot stopper came out on top in an impressive display which underlined how he has developed well over the last few years into a dependable presence between the sticks. Rating: 8

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Manuel Neuer, Bayern — A strangely weird evening for the skipper who was beaten by Danjuma early, had his post to thank when Moreno went close and was also fortunate to see Coquelin’s miss-hit cross ruled out to spare his blushes. Rating: 5

Karim Benzema, Real Madrid — What a game, what a player, what a striker. There are no more words to describe Karim Benzema after this hat trick. He’s just the perfect striker and he once again proved to be the best on the biggest stage. It’s not a coincidence that Real Madrid this season had issues only when he was not fit. Rating: 10

Thibaut Courtois, Real Madrid — If Benzema wasn’t playing today, Madrid’s keeper would definitely have been the man of the match. A handful of crucial saves helped Real Madrid keep this match from getting interesting down the stretch. Rating: 8

Edward Mendy, Chelsea A very poor performance from one of the best goalkeepers in the world. The mistake he made on the third goal scored by Benzema is impossible to forgive but this match doesn’t have to change our overall opinion about a player who has been largely excellent. Rating: 3

Second leg outlooks

Real Madrid vs. Chelsea: After winning such a game Real Madrid are of course the clear favorites to reach the semifinals but we shouldn’t rule out anything especially after since there is no more away goal rule this year. However, it’s crystal clear that Carlo Ancelotti has one foot already in the semifinals.

Bayern Munich vs. Villarreal: Although a fine margin, Villarreal are in the driver’s seat and Bayern will need major improvement to overhaul them in the second leg with the Spaniards already showing against Juventus that they can handle tough away clashes against stronger opponents.

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