PETE JENSON: Karim Benzema waged a one-man war to keep Real Madrid in it against Chelsea… the Frenchman is Zinedine Zidane’s saviour after scoring his 71st Champions League goal and will be key in the return at Stamford Bridge
When Karim Benzema was taken off three minutes from time Zinedine Zidane stopped him as he passed him and said something in his ear. No one would be surprised if it was, whatever you do don’t catch a chill before the second leg.
Soaked to the skin the Frenchman was handed a coat and took his place under cover. He had saved the team who were almost blown away by the Chelsea storm in the first period of the first half.
‘They dominated the first 20 minutes but after scoring it was the game we wanted,’ said Marcelo after the game. ‘There’s another game to play. It will be different in the second match.’
Karim Benzema waged a one-man war to keep Real Madrid in their semi-final tie with Chelsea
The striker was embraced by Zinedine Zidane after he was substituted at the end of the game
Benzema has now scored 28 goals this season in 40 games.
It was his 71st Champions League strike and that puts him level with Raul and only two behind Robert Lewandowski, with Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo 50 goals out in front.
Benzema also hit the post as he waged a one-man war to keep Madrid in the game. That was his 13th effort off the post this season.
Madrid fans will hope Marcelo is right and that it’s a different game in the second leg. Sergio Ramos, Ferland Mendy and Fede Valverde will all be back and that could make it a different affair.
The forward scored a fantastic goal to cancel out Christian Pulisic’s opener in the first half
Zidane could have done with him at the Alfredo di Stefano. The absence of Mendy on the bench meant that Marcelo had to soldier on long after he looked to no longer be fit for service.
Valverde’s energy would have breathed new life into the team in the second half too but the Uruguayan still needs the coronavirus all-clear to feature in London.
And Ramos, while he might not have necessarily improved on the performance of Madrid’s back three, especially the excellent Eder Militao, he would have been very useful trying to head in one of those late corners.
One player who was fit to come on in the second half was Eden Hazard but his impact was minimal. There was one dangerous pass that put Alvaro Odriozola in behind Chelsea’s defence but the full-back’s cross was poor.
Eden Hazard came off the bench but does not look fit enough to lead the team on the pitch
Hazard still looks long way from being the player who can justify the price Madrid paid for him, lead the team on the pitch and play Real Madrid into the final.
That means it will be all about Benzema again.
Spanish pundit, the former Celta Vigo player Gustavo Lopez said after the game: ‘Benzema cures all ills. If you’re cold he puts a blanket over you. If you’re hot he’ll turn the air conditioning on for you.’
Where there is Benzema there is hope. And in those first 20 minutes it looked as if all hope had been lost.