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 Old Lady and CR7: a match made in heaven

Juventus annihilates the Blaugrana to earn the top spot of the Champions League Group G ranking, beating them 0:3 thanks to two penalty kicks scored by the one and only CR7. Never had an Italian team scored as many goals against Barcelona at Camp Nou. 

Photo credits: Tuttomercatoweb.com

By Daphne Seberich

What a stellar night it was for Juventus. The decisive Matchday 6 game was the last opportunity for the Bianconeri to secure the top spot of the Champions League Group G, allowing them to play in the round-of-16 with the 2nd best team ranked in the other groups. Juventus had a colossal task to be able to beat Lionel Messi and his team to 1st place. They needed to score at least three goals and have a two-goal difference to pass the group stage as leaders.

Barcelona was unbeaten in 38 UEFA Champions League home matches, a run that started in September 2013. On the 8th of December 2020, over seven years later, the winning streak came to an end, thanks to a historical team effort of the Italian club. 

It was the night of the exes. Miralem Pjanić, who played four years for the Old Lady and was considered as one of the pillars of the team, was part of an exchange deal undergone by Barça and Juve last summer. The 30-year old Bosnian player got transferred to the Catalan team. Arthur, the young Brazilian prodigy, arrived in Turin to play for Juve. 

Before the Matchday 6 game between the two rivals, Miralem Pjanić released an interview to La Gazzetta Dello Sport, voicing criticism against his new coach Koeman and the atmosphere at the Spanish team, sparking rumors of him wanting to move back to Italy. 

Photo credits: El País

That did not help the Spaniards to keep a united front against the Bianconeri. The Blaugrana struggled the whole match. Keeping up with the high pace of the game was not an easy task for the strained team. Their current performance in La Liga is not helping the morale of the team either. 

Right from the get-go, the Old Lady set the pace, dominating the field. The Catalans were like puppets in the hands of the Juventini puppeteers.

Shivers came down the back for the Barça supporters in the 12th minute of the match.

CR7 was fowled in Barça’s penalty area, letting Tobias Stieler award a penalty to the Bianconeri. Cristiano Ronaldo’s talent and knowledge from the penalty mark allowed him to score what would be the first of three goals of the match. 

Soon after, a perfect pass from Cuadrado turned into an assist for McKennie, who blasted the ball mid-air into the goal defended by German Ter Stegen. Juventus scored two goals in the first twenty minutes of the match, something that no one could have seen coming.

Photo credits: El Comercio Perú

The Bianconeri were striving, thanks in particular to Álvaro Morata’s deadly counterattacks, which put loads of pressure on the Catalan club. The intensity was at an all-time high. 

A first-half-last-minute scare was McKennie knocking down Messi in the Bianconeri’s penalty area, but the VAR demonstrated that the foul was an accident and not intentional. No penalty was awarded.

The second half of the match saw Barça fight back, but the Italians were just on another planet. McKennie, who in my opinion was the man-of-the-match, kicked a challenging ball towards Ter Stegen’s goal, which the German, by a miracle, managed to punch off the pitch. The VAR showed Lenglet touching the ball with his hand far off the sides of his body inside of his penalty area. Tobias Stieler decided to concede the second penalty of the match to the Juventini. 

Photo credits: Outlook India

CR7 did not disappoint and scored the second penalty and final goal of the game. Juventus had earned the needed advantage to secure first place in the group ranking.

The legendary Italian goalkeeper Buffon, who replaced Szczęsny for this match, saved the Juventini from a potential goal at the 65th minute of the game, proving that he still is one of the greatest, even at age 42.

Photo credits: Getty Images

Bonucci managed to score a fourth goal for Juve, which unfortunately did not get validated due to Ronaldo’s offside. He had served the Italian defender the ball.   

Juventus was playing their best football of this season. The team looked united, supporting each other and fighting for every ball, no matter which position the players were supposed to be playing. Even CR7 gave it a go sweeping the ball off Messi in his penalty area during the second half of the match. 

FC Barcelona is in big trouble. Potentially, they could draw a top-ranked team that could cut their Champions League path short, letting them miss out on a substantial amount of money, of which they are in desperate need.

Now, we can only wait until the 14th of December to find out against which team Juve will play in the round-of-16. Fact is, they will have an easier task than the Spanish rivals to make it to the quarterfinal stage of the 2020/2021 Champions League.

Photo credits: Il Corriere dello Sport