Three Takeaways From Chelsea-Real Madrid Champions League Clash

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Real Madrid’s Belgian goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois saves a shot from Chelsea’s French midfielder N’Golo Kante (L) during the UEFA Champions League second leg semi-final football match at Stamford Bridge in London on May 5, 2021. Glyn KIRK / AFP

 

Chelsea beat Real Madrid 2-0 to clinch a 3-1 aggregate success in Wednesday’s Champions League semi-final second leg.

Goals from Timo Werner and Mason Mount booked an all-Premier League showdown with Manchester City in the final in Istanbul on May 29.

AFP Sport looks at three things we learned from the Stamford Bridge clash:

 

Tuchel’s Midas Touch

Since replacing the sacked Frank Lampard in January, Thomas Tuchel has overseen a remarkable revival in Chelsea’s fortunes and this was his finest moment yet.

Tuchel arrived at Stamford Bridge with a solid CV after leading Paris Saint-Germain to the French title and last season’s Champions League final.

But few expected him to have such an immediate impact on under-performing Chelsea.

Chelsea’s German head coach Thomas Tuchel celebrates his team’s second goal during the UEFA Champions League second leg semi-final football match against Real Madrid at Stamford Bridge in London on May 5, 2021. Glyn KIRK / AFP

 

Mired in ninth place in the Premier League when Tuchel took charge, Chelsea have won 16 of their 24 games under the German, rising back into the top four and reaching the finals of the Champions League and FA Cup.

Defensive excellence has been the trademark of Tuchel’s reign and once again he organised Chelsea superbly as they kept Real at bay and posed a sustained threat on the counter.

Thanks to Tuchel’s tactical excellence, Chelsea are in their third Champions League final and their first since winning the competition for the first time against Bayern Munich in 2012.

Tuchel has already masterminded a victory over Manchester City in the FA Cup semi-final and a repeat in Turkey would cap an incredible debut season.

 

Redemption For Werner

After a turbulent first season at Chelsea, Timo Werner finally exorcised his demons with the goal that put Chelsea on course for the final.

An ever-increasing litany of high-profile misses had raised serious doubts about the decision to sign Werner from RB Leipzig for £45 million ($62 million) last year.

Werner even received social media criticism from the wife of his Chelsea team-mate Thiago Silva after his close-range effort was saved by Real keeper Thibaut Courtois in the first leg.

Chelsea’s German striker Timo Werner (R) runs past Real Madrid’s German midfielder Toni Kroos during the UEFA Champions League second leg semi-final football match the at Stamford Bridge in London on May 5, 2021. Glyn KIRK / AFP

 

It looked like being another frustrating night for Werner when the German striker allowed himself to be needlessly caught offside before slotting home Ben Chilwell’s low cross.

But, for all his travails this season, Werner has refused to hide and his honest endeavour was rewarded in the 28th minute.

N’Golo Kante slipped a pass to Kai Havertz and when his chip rebounded off the bar, Werner was perfectly placed to grab the easiest goal of his career, heading into the empty net from virtually on the line.

The 25-year-old’s 12th goal for Chelsea was only his second in his last 18 games.

It was also Werner’s first Champions League goal in open play since September 2019, but the wait was worthwhile as he became the toast of the King’s Road at last.

 

Hazard Flops

Eden Hazard helped Chelsea win the Premier League twice in his seven-year spell with the club, but the Real Madrid forward’s first return to Stamford Bridge was one to forget.

Making just his 18th appearance of another injury-ravaged campaign, Hazard looked a shadow of the player who dazzled in Chelsea blue.

When the 30-year-old left the Bridge in 2019, he was ranked among the world’s best players after scoring 110 goals in 352 games for Chelsea.

Real had to pay £89 million to land the Belgian star, who was expected to succeed Cristiano Ronaldo as the new king of the Bernabeu.

Chelsea’s Italian midfielder Jorginho (R) vies with Real Madrid’s Belgian forward Eden Hazard during the UEFA Champions League second leg semi-final football match at Stamford Bridge in London on May 5, 2021. Glyn KIRK / AFP

 

Instead, Hazard turned up overweight for his first pre-season with the club and has been on a steep decline ever seen.

Given a chance to change the narrative against his former club, Hazard was completely anonymous.

Real boss Zinedine Zidane stuck with Hazard for 89 minutes, but he produced just one shot on goal when his low drive was blocked by Edouard Mendy as Madrid bowed out with a whimper.

AFP

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