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Real Madrid defies Chelsea’s comeback and secures a place in the semi-finals of the Champions League after an overtime thriller

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Karim Benzema’s hard header destroyed Chelsea’s remarkable comeback as Real Madrid lost 3-2 at the Bernabeu but went 5-4 on aggregate to the Champions League semi-finals.

Relentless French hitman Benzema provided a copy of the two headed goals he scored in last week’s quarter-final first leg at Stamford Bridge, where Real’s hat-trick saw them through to the quarter-finals.

However, Champions League holders Chelsea came to Madrid with other ideas, big ideas indeed, from a memorable and against all odds comeback in that vibrant second leg.

The Blues shook off their 3-1 deficit from the first leg and ripped Madrid apart from Carlo Ancelotti.

Mason Mount, Toni Rüdiger and Timo Werner gave the Blues a 3-0 lead and were close to completing the Madrid miracle with a handball from Marcos Alonso.

However, Luka Modric saved Real and delivered a great raking pass that allowed Rodrygo to run past a stunned Edouard Mendy and volley into the net.

Chelsea’s fourth overtime of the season duly followed and after all their effort and three smart goals, a head movement from Benzema brought the Madrid home down.

The 34-year-old converted Vinicius Junior’s cross with another powerful finish from the air to wrestle the Champions League title from Chelsea’s grip.

Benzema now has 38 goals in as many games for Real Madrid this season in all competitions. Such marksmanship inevitably earns trophies and Madrid will feel quite capable of claiming their 14th Champions League title this year.

Chelsea warmed up for their surrender without delay, with Reece James’ yellow card for a move to Vinicius being the only early concern.

The Blues boasted far more composure and control than in the first leg and duly took the lead when Mount capitalized on a ball that fell nicely into the box for him.

Chelsea built steadily towards goal and Mount steered home in style to give the visitors the perfect start.

Vinicius threatened again down the left but was never able to break free like he did at Stamford Bridge in a first half filled with frustration for the hosts.

When Benzema was booked for an aerial duel against Thiago Silva, the cheers from the home fans seemed to ruffle the Madrid crowd.

Ancelotti’s side seemed nervous and certainly lacked rhythm or agility.

Chelsea pretty much negotiated the ideal half from their point of view and went into the break with a 1-0 lead in the evening.

Thomas Tuchel’s side kept up the pressure right after the restart and Madrid continued their odd ploy of sitting down and letting Chelsea take control.

The hosts’ passivity continued even after the chance to recalibrate at half-time.

When Rudiger drove home from Mount’s Corner with a header finish, the Blues held a 2-0 lead that night and equalized in the tie.

Alonso thought he’d sent them to dreamland and a 3-0 lead, only for his crisp strike to be chalked off after a VAR review. The Spanish defender is said to have handled the ball after a rebound in the penalty area, giving Madrid a huge reprieve.

The home side took advantage almost immediately, but Benzema hit the bar when he should have.

Chelsea stayed cool and launched more well-structured attacks, and Mateo Kovacic’s delicate ball sent Werner on target.

The Germany star spun, then spun, then unleashed a shot from the cross that found its way to goal via a deflection.

Madrid looked on the edge but then Modric conjured up the pass of the night. The Croatian playmaker took out Rodrygo with a stunning ball that charged forward and hit the volley.

From listing and listless to effervescent and flowing, Madrid transformed at that moment.

Chelsea were barely finished, however, and substitute Christian Pulisic fired into the Madrid penalty area from a good position on the inside left.

The United States forward then pulled from an even better position in the six-yard box and snagged Kai Havertz’s knockdown.

Madrid found more sparks in extra time and Benzema eventually emerged with that signature header.

Chelsea lost the ball cheaply on the outside edge and Vinicius broke free to chip the Frenchman away for another throbbing header goal.

After that night’s 3-2 defeat, Madrid were still poised to progress overall and this time Chelsea couldn’t come up with another answer.

Hakim Ziyech saw a stinging shot that was well parried by Thibaut Courtois before Havertz headed inside the box without cover and Jorginho also missed a shot.

https://www.independent.ie/sport/soccer/champions-league/real-madrid-withstand-chelsea-comeback-to-book-champions-league-semi-final-place-after-extra-time-thriller-41548309.html Real Madrid defies Chelsea’s comeback and secures a place in the semi-finals of the Champions League after an overtime thriller

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