A tap-in by Karim Benzema and a powerful strike by substitute Marco Asensio earned European champions Real Madrid a 2-0 win over 10-man Chelsea in their Champions League quarter-final, first leg in the Spanish capital on Wednesday.
Benzema, the scourge of Chelsea at the same stage of the competition last season, converted from point blank range in the 21st minute when Kepa Arrizabalaga saved from Vinicius Junior but could only touch the ball in the direction of the Frenchman.
It was Benzema’s 90th Champions League goal with the last 11 all coming against English clubs.
Chelsea – under caretaker coach Frank Lampard after a dismal season so far – went close to scoring in the first half but Joao Felix and Raheem Sterling were thwarted by Madrid goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois playing against his former club.
The Londoners’ chances of getting back into the game suffered a major setback in the 59th minute when Ben Chilwell was shown a straight red card for bringing down Rodrygo with a tug of the Brazilian’s shirt when he was bearing down on goal.
Asensio had been on the field for just three minutes when he was fed by Vinicius on the edge of the box and the Spain international drilled in a low shot that went through the legs of Chelsea defender Wesley Fofana and beyond Kepa’s dive.
The win at the Santiago Bernabeu stadium puts the 14-time European champions in the driver’s seat ahead of the second leg at Stamford Bridge on April 18.
Benzema, who scored a hat-trick in London last year before getting another in Madrid in a 5-4 aggregate thriller, could have effectively seen off Chelsea in added time at the end of the second half when he headed over with the goal at his mercy after Kepa could only punch the ball as far as him.
Chelsea substitute Mason Mount then came close to a crucial goal for the Blues when he turned and shot in the penalty area but former team mate Antonio Rudiger, also on off the bench, raced in to block.
In the end, the Londoners failed to scored for a fourth match in a row – three of them in the Premier League – their longest barren run since 1993.
Lampard – Chelsea’s top goalscorer who returned to Stamford Bridge for a second spell as coach until the end of the season after Graham Potter was fired this month – embraced Madrid boss Carlo Ancelotti, himself an ex-Chelsea manager, at the final whistle.
“They’re a very good team but we have to believe,” Lampard told BT Sport, referring to next week’s return leg in London.