Karim Benzema continued his rampant form this season, with his hat trick leading Real Madrid to a 3-1 win over Chelsea in their Champions League quarterfinal first leg on a rainy Wednesday night at Stamford Bridge.
The Champions League holders had the better of the opening 20 minutes, but it was Real that opened the scoring when Benzema smashed a header into the top corner of Edouard Mendy’s goal from a stellar cross by Vinicius Junior.
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Benzema doubled the lead for Carlo Ancelotti’s side minutes later with another gorgeous header, leaning back and lofting his effort from Luka Modric’s pinpoint pass over the outstretched arms of Mendy to make it 2-0 to the visitors before 25 minutes.
Chelsea hit back just before the break, though, as Thibaut Courtois could only watch Kai Havertz power a header of his own from Jorginho’s delightful chipped-in ball past him to halve the deficit for Thomas Tuchel’s side after 45 thrilling minutes.
Tuchel made two changes after the break – brining on Mateo Kovacic for Andreas Christensen and Hakim Ziyech for N’Golo Kante – but it was Real who started the second half in style as Benzema completed his hat trick thanks to a Mendy blunder that allowed the Frenchman to shoot into a wide open net.
“They’re very important goals. I’m happiest to have scored the third as I missed one in the first half and I was thinking about that chance because it’s very important to score goals. Then I got another and I’m very happy , “Benzema said after the match.
“Today we came out to win, to show we’re Real Madrid. Things worked out well for us as we played well, from the first minute to the last.”
Benzema’s three goals took his tally to 36 across all competitions on the season, second only to the 45 Robert Lewandowski has scored for Bayern Munich in Europe’s top-five leagues, while breaking his own record as the oldest player to score a UCL hat trick at 34 years, 108 days.
The struggling Romelu Lukaku came on for Christian Pulisic in the 64th minute and had a glorious chance soon after to cut into Real’s lead, but his glancing header from close range squirted wide of Courtois’ far post.
The result means it’s advantage Real – who rode a Benzema hat trick to an unlikely round-of-16 rally past PSG – as the two teams prepare to meet again on Tuesday at the Santiago Bernabeu for the decisive second leg and a spot in the UCL semifinals.
Chelsea’s defeat adds to a sense of turmoil with the club put up for sale by Roman Abramovich after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
The Russian billionaire has been sanctioned by the British government.
Chelsea coach Thomas Tuchel said his team had been way off the levels he expects.
“You cannot expect a result from this kind of performance,” Tuchel told reporters.