Two second half goals from Rodrygo put Chelsea’s forlorn hopes of winning the Champions league competition out of their misery, although a 2-0 victory on the night might have flattered Madrid slightly but a 4-0 aggregate triumph did not.
Chelsea have become a misshapen, bloated, over-entitled mess of a club under its new owner Boehly. Against a team as clever as Madrid, who will face either Bayern Munich or Manchester City in the semi-finals, they simply got what they deserved.
The players he has assembled at a cost of over £600m did not let themselves down in the second leg of their Champions League quarter final against Real Madrid as they tried to overcome a 2-0 deficit from the first leg at the Bernabeu last week.
If they had taken their chances, they might have made this an uncomfortable for the 14-times winners of this competition. But the harsh reality is that they were not good enough to take their chances.
N’Golo Kante missed one early in the first half and Marc Cucurella missed another just before the interval. Chelsea huffed and puffed but Madrid looked a different class to them in Spain and when it really mattered, they looked a different class to them here.
They have now lost four games in succession since Frank Lampard took over as caretaker manager but this defeat was not his fault. Chelsea are already thought to have made approaches to former Bayern boss Julian Nagelsmann but they will not be able to offer him Champions League football for a season at least. This is a club that is heading down and down. At the moment, there is no end in sight to their misery.
Much hope had been attached to the precedent of Chelsea’s second leg round of 16 comeback win over Napoli in 2012 when they overturned a 3-1 deficit from the first leg to win 4-1.
But that Chelsea team was forged in steel and stocked to the brim with leaders. Didier Drogba, John Terry, Petr Cech, Ashley Cole, Michael Essien and, of course, Lampard were in that side.
It was a very different team to the collection of talented but callow men that has been so hastily and haphazardly assembled by Boehly and which has been struggling so painfully to find any sort of chemistry as it has tumbled down the Premier League to the place where it now lies, just below mid-table, without any hope of making the top four.
That Chelsea team that overcame Napoli embarked on an improbable run to the final, getting past Barcelona in an epic semi-final, before beating Bayern Munich in their own stadium to win the competition for the first time. The idea that the team Lampard now manages could do the same thing always appeared hopelessly over-optimistic.
Lampard’s team selection reflected the reality of the situation. He was hamstrung by the absence of Ben Chilwell, who had been sent off in the first leg. And he knew that if Chelsea flew into the fight with a team that boasts an attack as technically accomplished and fleet-footed as Madrid’s, Chelsea would get picked off and the tie would be over before it began.
So, to some consternation among the home support, Lampard chose conservatively. He left both Raheem Sterling and Joao Felix on the bench and picked an eleven with Kai Havertz as its attacking fulcrum. The players in the starting line-up had only scored 17 goals between them all season.
The surprises continued when N’Golo Kante began the match as an auxiliary attacker, tucked in behind Havertz, tasked with using his tenacity, his speed and his reading of the game to disrupt Madrid as high up the pitch as possible and stop Luka Modric and Toni Kroos settling into the passing rhythm that can destroy the best teams.
The ploy almost paid immediate dividends. Ten minutes had gone when Chelsea spread the ball wide to Reece James, who was playing at right midfield, and James drove in a searching cross to the near post.
The ball broke to Kante, ten yards out and alone, the goal yawned and Kante mishit his left-foot shot so that it bounced down into the ground and harmlessly wide. Lampard turned away from the action and put his head in his hands.
It was a bad miss but it seemed to unsettle Madrid. It offered them a glimpse of what could be. But they weathered a spell of Chelsea pressure and midway through the half, Rodrygo slammed an angled rising drive against the outside of the post and Modric brought a good diving stop from Kepa Arrizabalaga.
But Chelsea stayed in the game. In fact, they did more than that. James was a constant threat down the right – the outstanding player on the pitch in the first half – and the home midfield continued to control the game. But they could not force a breakthrough. Half chances came and went and Madrid survived.
A few minutes before half time, the visitors should have taken the lead. A lovely exchange of passes freed Modric down the right and he hooked curled in a cross to the back post. Vinicius Junior ghosted in front of his marker got to the ball first but it cannoned off his shin and flew well wide.
On the stroke of the interval, Chelsea wasted an even better chance. James, again, was the provider, getting free on the right and driving the ball across the face of the six-yard box. Kante flung himself at it but could not make contact. It fell to Marc Cucurella, much-maligned by Chelsea fans, at the back post.
Cucurella steadied himself and gazed redemption in the face but Courtois, who had been given a hostile reception by the home crowd because of the way he left the club, rushed out to face him.
Cucurella hit his shot well enough but Courtois spread himself and blocked it. ‘Thibault, Thibault, you’re a ****,’ the Chelsea fans sang at him as he walked off at half time. A big grin creased his face.
Five minutes into the second half, Chelsea came close again but this time Kante’s close range effort was blocked by Eder Militao. Militao, who had already been booked, was lucky to escape a second yellow minutes later when he brought down Trevoh Chalobah with a clumsy challenge.
The referee waved away Chelsea’s impassioned pleas for a red card. Their anger at that perceived injustice soon deepened. Reprieved, Militao played a superb ball out of defence to Rodrygo on the right flank, Chalobah sold himself with a flying tackle and Rodrygo skipped past it and slid a ball across the goal.
Benzema missed it but it reached Vinicius Junior at the back post and he cut it back to Rodrygo, who lifted it past two men on the line and into the net. Rodrygo put the tie out of sight with a tap-in ten minutes from the end and Chelsea’s night was complete when Mykhailo Mudryk pulled a shot wide when he was clean through late on. He was offside anyway. Source: All Football