Holders Real Madrid breezed past Chelsea into the semi-finals of the Champions League with Rodrygo’s double securing a 2-0 win at Stamford Bridge on Tuesday to set up a likely mouth-watering clash with Manchester City.
Chelsea’s hopes of maintaining interest in a woeful season always looked slender after losing last week in the Bernabeu and Rodrygo put them out of their misery with two second-half goals to confirm Real’s superiority with a 4-0 aggregate win.
The hosts had 19 goal attempts but once again they lacked any cutting edge as they lost a fourth match in succession in all competitions since the club’s record scorer Frank Lampard returned as interim manager.
N’Golo Kante spurned two chances to cut the deficit and Real’s former Chelsea keeper Thibaut Courtois made a crucial save just before halftime to frustrate his old club who have now managed only one goal in their last six games.
Real, bidding for a record-extending 15th European crown, bided their time and Rodrygo opened the scoring in the 58th minute, before tapping in again in the 80th to spark a mass exodus of Chelsea fans who had seen enough.
Despite spending around 600 million pounds ($745 million) on players since a Todd Boehly-led takeover, the London club have now lost four games in a row for the first time since 1993.
For Real, they may be handing the La Liga title to arch-rivals Barcelona, but remain the team to beat in Europe’s elite competition and manager Carlo Ancelotti is now eyeing a third Champions League crown with them and fifth in all.
Manchester City lead Bayern Munich 3-0 heading in to their quarter-final second leg on Wednesday.
Chelsea’s fans cranked up the volume more in hope than expectation from the kickoff and the hosts almost got the perfect start when Reece James, Chelsea’s most dangerous player, crossed low and the ball broke kindly for Kante who held his head in his hands after bouncing a volley wide.
Real looked capable of killing the tie whenever they moved forward and Rodrygo, who scored a vital goal against Chelsea at the same stage last year, smashed a shot against the post.
Home keeper Kepa Arrizabalaga then beat away a Vinicius Junior effort before Real’s master craftsman Luka Modric forced another save from Arrizabalaga.
A Chelsea goal before halftime would have energised the mood and it almost arrived in stoppage time when James fizzed a ball across the area and Marc Cucurella looked poised to score only for Courtois to smother his effort brilliantly.
“The big Courtois save was very important. We didn’t want them to go ahead,” Ancelotti told reporters. “That could have been worrying. As the second half developed, we were stronger, we created space to open up quality transitions.
“By the end, we had produced a very complete performance. We hit a good level.”
Shortly after halftime Kante’s deflected effort went agonisingly wide and then Madrid defender Eder Militao was a tad fortunate not to receive a second yellow card for a clumsy foul on Trevoh Chalobah.
“It was a second yellow card, which means a red, which means 30 minutes with us a man up,” Lampard said.
Real then switched gears and Rodrygo skipped past Chalobah’s wild slide on the right and his cross was eventually played back to him by fellow Brazilian Vinicius Jr to calmly slot home.
Real’s fans wedged in the corner were already serenading their team by the time Chelsea were picked off again and Federico Valverde teed up Rodrygo to apply the knockout blow.
It could have got ugly for Chelsea and Lampard who now faces a huge task injecting some life into a season that is fast becoming an embarrassment for the big spenders.