Real Madrid: The two pillars who made the difference vs. Chelsea

Real Madrid, Karim Benzema (Photo by JAVIER SORIANO/AFP via Getty Images)
Real Madrid, Karim Benzema (Photo by JAVIER SORIANO/AFP via Getty Images) /

Real Madrid managed to escape their first leg encounter with Chelsea with a 1-1 draw despite being thoroughly outplayed in the first half. This was not Real’s finest big-game performance of the season, as the Blues created chance after chance and exploited left wing back Marcelo’s lack of fitness defensively.

But Real survived. To them, that’s all that matters. Their midfielders were gassed, and they were missing key players like Ferland Mendy. So although Chelsea will have optimism from outplaying Los Blancos, the former three-peat Champions League winners will likewise have optimism, considering they hung in there despite not being at full strength.

And how did Real Madrid manage to survive? Well, the two players who have been pillars of this team for the last two seasons (one of them, for much, much longer) made decisive plays that literally affected the scoreline.

First, Thibaut Courtois, who has the highest save percentage in Europe’s top five leagues, made a point-blank save to deny Timo Werner. I understand that Werner’s finishing makes him the punching back of the day and that he could have done better, but full marks must go to Courtois for making the stop. That still was not an easy save to make, I don’t care what the “player avi” crowd of Football Twitter has to say.

Karim Benzema showed why he is Real Madrid’s MVP

Courtois has made big plays so often this season to keep Real Madrid in matches, and this save on Werner was definitely one of them.

But the more impressive individual play was Real Madrid’s lone goal, scored by, no shock here, Karim Benzema.

He is Real’s MVP and a strong Player of the Season candidate in his league, as he’s scored more than triple the number of goals of his teammates. Los Blancos rely on Benzema more than any other top team relies on one player to score goals. And Real needed a goal desperately to even things up at home.

Benzema’s goal came after a Marcelo cross was headed once by Casemiro, then by Eder Militao, and finally by the scorer himself. The No. 9 headed the ball up, and he smashed it into the back of the net on the volley with his right foot.

His balance, body positioning, and technique were perfect on this goal, leaving Edouard Mendy, Europe’s leader in clean sheet percentage, with no chance of keeping the score at 1-0. And how vital might this goal end up being in the tie!

Next. Real Madrid vs. Chelsea Burning Questions. dark

Real Madrid were not at their best on Tuesday night. But Courtois and Benzema, as ever, made sure Los Blancos would have another chance. It is a blessing to have them in the team!