Luka Modric turned the tie and Karim Benzema settled it as Real Madrid held off a sensational fightback from Chelsea on Tuesday to win an enthralling Champions League quarter-final 5-4 on aggregate.
Chelsea wiped out Madrid’s 3-1 lead from the first leg in stunning fashion at the Santiago Bernabeu as Mason Mount, Antonio Rudiger and Timo Werner put Europe’s reigning champions on the brink of an incredible victory.
But the 36-year-old Modric intervened with another moment of genius to add to the very best of his glittering career, a sumptuous pass with the outside of his right foot setting up Rodrygo to volley in and sending a nerve-shredding contest into extra time.
After scoring a hat-trick at Stamford Bridge, Benzema then stepped forward to claim the winner, the Frenchman capitalising on a Rudiger slip to head in, a 3-2 defeat enough to see Madrid into the semi-finals.
“You can never think anything is lost at the Bernabeu,” said Carlo Ancelotti afterwards. “I can’t explain it but there is a magic in this stadium that helps you.”
At the final whistle, Modric and Benzema dropped to the floor, their combined 70 years of age belying another two vintage contributions that have dragged Real Madrid in sight of a 14th European Cup.
They will face either Manchester City or rivals Atletico Madrid in the last four.
After being thrashed by Brentford and then outplayed by Madrid in the first leg last week, Chelsea came in rejuvenated after putting six past Southampton in the Premier League last weekend.
Thomas Tuchel said on Monday they would need a “fantastic script” to pull off this comeback and they certainly delivered that, their only failing an inability to prevent Modric and Benzema doing what they have done so many times before.
“We were unlucky, that’s why we’re disappointed,” said Tuchel. “We got beaten by pure individual quality and our own mistakes. We deserved to go through.”
Mount’s goal in the 15th minute set the tone, Madrid immediately consumed by tension and Chelsea given early hope.
Benzema, Modric and Toni Kroos tried to wrestle back control but Chelsea’s authority was even more pronounced early in the second half and within minutes they had a second, Rudiger rising high at the back post to head in from a corner.
But Chelsea were celebrating a third when Marcos Alonso pivoted round Dani Carvajal’s sliding tackle and slammed into the top corner. VAR however spotted Alonso using his hand to control and the goal was disallowed.
In the 73rd minute, Kovacic slid through to Werner, who coolly slalomed past two sliding Madrid defenders and sent a deflected finish into the corner.
A disappointed Kroos was taken off before a wild contest turned again on the moment of magic from Modric. With the outside of his foot, Modric stroked a 30-yard pass over to the right of the penalty area where Rodrygo, on as a substitute, volleyed in.
Into extra time and Madrid found another gear, Vinicius finally finding space to tear into. His floated cross might have been easily cleared by Rudiger but the defender slipped, giving Benzema just enough space to guide his header in.
Villarreal oust Bayern
Villarreal dumped Bayern Munich out of the Champions League on Tuesday after Samuel Chukwueze’s 88th-minute strike at the Allianz Arena gave the Spaniards a 1-1 draw in the second leg of their quarterfinal tie that took them through 2-1 on aggregate.
Robert Lewandowski had put Bayern ahead on the night to level the tie on aggregate after Villarreal’s 1-0 first-leg win, and extra time loomed until Chukwueze struck.
Unai Emery’s Villarreal continued their remarkable European run, having also surprised Juventus in the last 16 with a 3-0 win in Turin.
“We suffered against Juventus, we suffered against Bayern, but we are now in the semi-finals,” said Villarreal captain Raul Albiol, 36, the player-of-the-match in Munich.
“Now we can dream of going even further.”
Villarreal are into the semi-finals for the first time since 2006.
They will play either Liverpool or Benfica in the last four. The English side take a 3-1 lead into Wednesday’s second leg at Anfield.
The result means Bayern Munich exit the Champions League in the quarter-finals for the second year running.
“It is extremely bitter that we concede a goal despite this performance,” said Bayern forward Thomas Mueller.
“We pressed, pressed, pressed and there was no way we were going to concede a goal.”
Villarreal soaked up everything Bayern threw at their defence, aside from Lewandowski’s strike early in the second half.
It was a heart-breaking night for Bayern, who dominated for most of the match before Chukwueze scored just four minutes after coming on.
Bayern started with urgency, but the Villarreal defence was alert to every threat.