Champions League | Rodrygo made it twice as easy for Real Madrid to overcome Chelsea in the semifinals
Real Madrid’s Rodrygo celebrates scoring the team’s second goal against Chelsea in the second leg of the Champions League quarterfinals on April 18, 2023 | Photo Credit: Action Photos via Reuters
Holders Real Madrid cruised past Chelsea in the Champions League semi-finals with Rodrygo’s double securing a 2-0 win at Stamford Bridge on Tuesday to set up a likely mouth-watering clash in Manchester City.
Chelsea’s hopes of maintaining interest in a dismal season were always looking slim after last week’s defeat at the Bernabeu and Rodrygo put them out of their misery with two second-half goals to confirm Real’s superiority with a combined 4-0 win.
The hosts had 19 attempts on goal but once again lacked any cutting edge as they lost their fourth successive match in all competitions since the club’s record scorer Frank Lampard returned as interim manager .
N’Golo Kante spurned two chances to reduce the deficit and Real’s former Chelsea keeper Thibaut Courtois made a crucial save before halftime to disappoint his old club who have now conceded just one goal in their last six games.
Real, bidding for a record-extending 15th European crown, bided their time and Rodrygo opened the scoring in the 58th minute, before tapping again in the 80th to spark the mass exodus of Chelsea fans who had seen enough.
First time since 1993
Despite spending around 600 million pounds ($745 million) on players since Todd Boehly took over, the London club have now lost four games in a row for the first time since 1993.
As for Real, they may have handed the La Liga title to arch-rivals Barcelona, but remain the team to beat in Europe’s elite competition and manager Carlo Ancelotti is now looking for a third Champions League crown with them and fifth of all.
Manchester City lead Bayern Munich 3-0 heading into their quarter-final second leg on Wednesday.
Chelsea fans turned up the volume in anticipation more than expected from the kickoff and the hosts almost got off to the perfect start when Reece James, Chelsea’s most dangerous player, crossed low and the ball broke nicely for Kante who had his head in his hands after bouncing a volley wide.
Real looked capable of killing off the tie whenever they went forward and Rodrygo, who scored a crucial goal against Chelsea at the same stage last year, hit the post.
Home keeper Kepa Arrizabalaga then parried a Vinicius Junior effort before Real’s master craftsman Luka Modric forced another save from Arrizabalaga.
Important to save
A Chelsea goal before halftime would have lifted the mood and it almost came in stoppage time when James fizzed the ball across the area and Marc Cucurella looked set to score only for Courtois to stop his effort.
“The big save by Courtois was very important. We don’t want them to continue,” Ancelotti told reporters. “That could be worrying. As the second half progressed, we became stronger, we created space to open quality changes.
“By the end, we had produced a very complete performance. We hit a good level.”
Shortly after halftime, Kante’s deflected effort went wide and Madrid defender Eder Militao was fortunate not to receive a second yellow card for a clumsy foul on Trevoh Chalobah.
“It’s a second yellow card, which means a red, which means we have 30 minutes with someone,” Lampard said.
Real then switched and Rodrygo headed past Chalobah’s wild slide down the right and his cross was eventually played back to him by fellow Brazilian Vinicius Jr to calmly slot home.
The cornered Real fans were already rooting for their team by the time Chelsea took over again and Federico Valverde teed up Rodrygo to deliver the knockout blow.
It could have turned ugly for Chelsea and Lampard now faces a huge task to inject some life into a season that is fast becoming an embarrassment for the big spenders.
Giroud sent Milan into the semis despite a late Napoli rally
AC Milan reached the semi-finals of the Champions League for the first time since they lifted the trophy 16 years ago thanks to a first-half goal from Olivier Giroud as Napoli earned a 1-1 draw and 2- 1 aggregate win despite a barrage of pressure on Tuesday.
Napoli fought until the end but could not break Milan’s solid defense until striker Victor Osimhen equalized three minutes into stoppage time with a bullet header but it was too late as the referee ended the match seconds later.
Seven-time European champions Milan now face either Inter Milan or Benfica, who meet on Wednesday at the San Siro with the Italian leading 2-0 from the first leg.
This is the third meeting between Milan and Napoli in 16 days, with Stefano Pioli’s visiting side claiming a 4-0 victory over the runaway Serie A leaders on April 2.