Benzema keeps Real Madrid’s ‘Road to Istanbul’ dream alive 

Karim Benzema keeps the Madridistas alive in the battle for the Champions League finals with a volley in the 29th minute of the match played at the Estadio Alfredo Di Stéfano against Chelsea. 

Photo credits: Goal.com & Fran Santiago for Getty Images

By Daphne Seberich

It was an exciting and even match of Champions League semi-finals between Real Madrid and Chelsea at the Estadio Alfredo Di Stéfano, which ended in a 1-1 tie. Christian Pulišić and Real’s Pichichi Karim Benzema both made it onto the scoresheet, but their goals were not enough to secure the win for their clubs.  

Los Blancos managed to keep their unbeaten streak going and added one tally to their 17 matches undefeated in all competitions. The Madridistas fought their way back from 0-1 to a draw to secure an advantage ahead of the tie in West London on Wednesday next week. Zinedine Zidane’s team has to win the match at Stamford Bridge with one goal difference to keep their dream of the 14th Champions League title alive. 

Zinedine Zidane surprised everyone when he announced the lineup ahead of the match. The Frenchman opted for three center-backs in defense, with Marcelo and Dani Carvajal playing as wing-backs respectively on the left and right. Vinícius Jr. was preferred to Marco Asensio at the front alongside Benzema for the starting eleven.

Photo credits: UEFA Champions League

In the first minutes of the match, Chelsea was the team capable of pressing their opponents in their half and creating scoring chances. Ex-Red Bull Leipzig superstar Timo Werner, who transferred to Chelsea in last summer’s transfer session, had some good opportunities to score the advantage. 

It was American Christian Pulišić who brought the Blues ahead. He was the first to make it onto the scoresheet at the 14th minute. The Pennsylvania native, served by a perfectly calibrated cross by Antonio Rüdiger, rifled a shot, which deflected off Raphaël Varane’s back into the goal. Courtois, who was well outside of his posts, couldn’t prevent the ball from hitting the back of the net. Pulišić made it into the Champions League books as the first American to score a goal in the competition’s semi-final stage. 

Video credits: UEFA Champions League

Real Madrid, who until then were suffering multiple attacks from the Blues, fought back with Benzema hitting the woodwork of Mendy’s goal at the 23rd minute. The Frenchman’s shot glanced off the right post. This action revived the Madridistas’ spirits, who went ahead to put great pressure on the Blues. 

The breakthrough came on the 29th minute for the Merengues. A short-played corner kick led Marcelo to cross into the box. Casemiro and Éder Militão kept the ball alive with their headers until finally serving Benzema, who drew the score level with a brilliant volley. The Frenchman oozes talent and is one of the players Zidane can trust over and over again. 

Photo credits: Real Madrid C. F.

In the second half, the pace dropped considerably compared to the exciting and eventful first 45 minutes. The Madridistas regained control over matters, pressing high and preventing Chelsea from breaking deep into their half of the pitch. 

The hosts, although, couldn’t break away and score the advantage. Coach Zidane decided to bring on ex-Chelsea forward Eden Hazard, who played for the first time against his former team, for Vinícius Júnior. Álvaro Odriozola and Marco Asensio followed shortly after, respectively replacing Carvajal and Marcelo. 

Photo credits: UEFA Champions League

Zidane’s changes in the second half didn’t deliver and brought little to no spark to the team. The Madridistas had to settle for a draw ahead of the return leg in West London at Stamford Bridge, leaving the outcome of this semi-finals still wide open. 

Real Madrid will have to attack and not concede on Wednesday next week to make it through to Istanbul’s final. The trip to Ataturk Stadium is only one game away for the Madridistas. Can they raise the Champions League trophy for the 14th time in their history?

The race to the league title is still on

Real Madrid equalized against neighbors down south Getafe, dropping two precious points towards the title race against Atlético Madrid and Barcelona. They are still in contention, being only three points behind the latter. 

Photo credits: Real Madrid C.F. & Marca

By Daphne Seberich 

Real Madrid are still unbeaten in the last 15 games. That’s how Zinedine Zidane and the Madridistas would sell it. Nevertheless, the Blancos drew at the Colosseum Alfonso Pérez in a very tight game against Getafe, where the countless absences on the pitch were hard-felt. 

Zidane had to reshuffle for the ninth time in the last nine games his lineup. Injuries and suspensions stood in the way of picking the ideal 11 to maximize points against their neighbors down south. Real Madrid was without a defense. Casemiro and Toni Kroos were missed in the midfield. Not even the Merengues’ Pichichi Karim Benzema could overcome the difficulties of the match.

What sealed the Madridistas fate was a questionable offside decision after a brilliant goal scored by forward Mariano. In the early doors of the match, the Brazilian kicked the ball to the back of the net for Real Madrid’s advantage. Referee José Maria Sanchez Martinez’s decision after the VAR consultancy with José Luis Munuera Montero was detrimental to the match’s outcome for the Whites. 

Photo rights: LaLiga

The image shown during the game to determine the offside was, although, proven to be controversial. The chosen frame that determined Mariano’s goal as invalid showed the ball already in motion. It had already left Éder Militão’s boot. Fran Martinez (@LaLigaenDirecto), who analyzes LaLiga’s VAR and referee decisions, claimed that the previous frame, with the ball still untouched by the Brazilian, would have depicted Mariano in a legal position. 

The highly defending team Getafe played mostly in their half of the pitch. For them, drawing against Real Madrid was already an accomplishment. It’s been three years since the ‘Azulones’ have scored against the Whites. Both parties had numerous chances to score the advantage goal, but no one managed to finalize it. 

Eres Unal of Getafe had a chance in the second half of the match but was neutralized by resilient Thibaut Courtois. He was then called into duty by a late attempt by Nemanja Maksimović that was cleared by the Belgian over the crossbar. 

Video rights: LaLiga

Real Madrid was clearly the strongest team in the last five minutes of the game and were hoping to come out on top to maximize points. The neighbors, although, held the Madridistas in check to earn a share of potential points.

Courtois voiced some of his thoughts after the match: “Now is not the time to moan about injuries – you have to show your face. We’re a bit disappointed by the draw, but it’s not easy with so many games. We were up against Getafe, which is a tough place to go, on a very dry pitch. It was difficult to move the ball about. With so many injuries, you can’t rotate as much and you’re a bit at your limit, but we don’t think much about it. We have to recover well, rest well… that’s the only way.” 

Video rights: Real Madrid TV

Real Madrid will face Cádiz on Wednesday to attempt to match Atlético Madrid in the standings. 

Resilience at its best

Real Madrid’s top shape period continues with a successful draw against Liverpool. The Blancos move on to the next stage of the 2020/2021 Champions League competition. 

Photo credits: Real Madrid C.F.

By Daphne Seberich

Real Madrid are back in the semi-finals. For the eighth time in the last ten years, the Blancos are on track to raise the trophy with the big ears for the 14th time in their history. A brilliant first leg allowed the Merengues to fly to England with a significant advantage over their British competitors. The draw at Anfield against Liverpool was enough for the Madridistas to make it through to the last four of the 2020/2021 Champions League competition. 

Strikers Vinicius Jr. and Marco Asensio determined the fate of their team when it mattered the most, punishing Alisson with three goals during the first leg of the quarter-finals. The Madrid-based team is definitely on a high, coming from a 3-1 triumph at the Alfredo Di Stéfano against Liverpool and a 2-1 win against their rivals Barcelona at the almighty Clásico

Thibaut Courtois was a crucial asset for the Merengues. The Belgian proved to be in superb shape, impeding Liverpool to score an advantage. A particular moment in the match between the two giants of football was an incredible save by the Blancos’ goalkeeper. Courtois neutralized a dangerous attempt by Salah when he stroked the ball away from his goal with his left foot with incredible class and elegance.  

Photo credits: David Klein for REUTERS

Soon after, the Belgian goalkeeper had to perform another big save against James Milner. It was clear that the Reds would not leave the Champions League without giving a proper fight to the Blancos, especially at Anfield. The Madridistas’ efforts, although, were superior and allowed them to remain untouched for the first half of the match.

Benzema came close to putting the definitive nail in Liverpool’s coffin. A brilliant solo effort from the Real Madrid striker, who already scored a “work of art” goal at the Clásico the weekend before, almost put the Blancos ahead. The on-target shot was, although, not finalized, as the ball hit the post of Alisson’s goal. 

The strong performance of midfielder Kroos, Casemiro and evergreen Modrić allowed Real Madrid to get back on track in the second half. Even though their opponents were constantly pressing them in their half of the pitch, the trio assured their teammates by displaying resilience. 

Photo credits: Real Madrid C.F.

The Merengues almost put the game to bed with an attempt by Vinicius Jr., served by tenacious Fede Valverde, to pierce Alisson’s net. The Brazilian goalkeeper read the situation right away and came off his line to cleared the ball. 

The Spaniard came to this crucial match just barely having recovered from an ankle injury. His attendance came off as a surprise as Zidane’s starting eleven was announced to the public. Furthermore, Valverde was set to play for the first time as a  right-back in the typical 4-3-3 Real Madrid lineup.

Real Madrid will now face Thomas Tuchel’s Chelsea in the semi-final of the Champions League. The Blues’ coach has well-renowned experience with the final stages of the competition, having reached last year’s final with PSG. The Blancos have acquired an enormous amount of experience, having lifted three trophies with the big ears for three years in a row. Zidane’s accomplishments speak for themselves. Can he succeed in becoming the most successful Real Madrid coach in the team’s history?

Photo credits: Real Madrid C.F.