Real Madrid striker Karim Benzema delivered a masterclass at Stamford Bridge, scoring a sublime hat-trick – including two first-half headers in three minutes – to hand the Spaniards a 3-1 win over reigning champions Chelsea in their Champions League quarterfinal.
Benzema struck in the 21st and 24th minute with two exquisite headers from Vinicius Jnr and Luka Modric crosses.
The hosts responded through a Kai Havertz strike before halftime, but Benzema made it back-to-back hat-tricks in the Champions League when he capitalised on a calamitous error from Mendy.
In just the first minute of the second half Chelsea gloveman Edouard Mendy, some 20 metres out of his penalty area, underhit a pass to Antonio Rudiger which Benzema pounced on to simply roll the ball into the net.
Chelsea shifted to a back four and wrestled back momentum in the second half. But they spurned a chance to level when Romelu Lukaku failed in a header of his own, before Benzema received a standing ovation from the travelling supporters when he was substituted late in the piece.
Chelsea has now suffered back-to-back defeats at home for the first time since April last year, but conceded three or more goals in repeat home fixtures for the first time since October 2012.
Chelsea boss Thomas Tuchel didn’t hold back in his assessment of the Blues’ performance. He told BT Sport: “It is a heavy loss. It was one of the worst first halves that I saw from us here at Stamford Bridge. Individually and as a team it was by far not enough. It was far from our standards and then you lose games.
“Passing, where we passed, how we passed when we passed, when we attacked, the ball possession game… first half was so from any standards that we set ourselves that we cannot complain when we lose.
“We had 16 shots in the second half. You can always come back and win it but when you kill the game by yourself after 45 minutes it is harder and harder.
“No, we don’t have to go to Madrid we have to go Southampton and it is very important to process this. It is crucial that we go to Southampton. If we keep playing like this we will lose at Southampton and then we will get hammered at Bernabeu.”
Former Blues and England midfielder Joe Cole echoed those comments, declaring: “Chelsea played well in the second half. First half was one of the worst performances I have seen from Chelsea for a long, long time.”
Once relegated to being a support act in Madrid to Real Madrid, 34-year-old Frenchman Benzema has asserted himself as one of the finest strikers in the world in recent campaigns.
Indeed, he became the first player since Ronaldo in 2017 to score consecutive hat-tricks in knockout Champions League games. Today’s goals took his tally to 37 for the season, having struck three goals against PSG in the Round of 16.
Benzema told Spanish TV: “They’re magic nights, like the other day at the Bernabeu against Paris. 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.
“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.”