Real Madrid 1-1 Chelsea, Estadio Alfredo di Stefano
(Benzema 29′ – Pulisic 14′)
Pulisic showed quick feet and a cool head to finish put the ball beyond Thibault Courtois after Antonio Rüdiger’s long ball caught out Real Madrid, making amends for Chelsea after Germany striker Timo Werner had missed a fine opportunity even earlier. It was the first time an American has ever scored in a Champions League semifinal.
As the rain hammered down in Madrid, Pulisic was a ray of sunshine for the Londoners. Tuchel was the coach at Borussia Dortmund when the then teenager from Pennsylvania arrived in Germany, and the forward was given his Champions League by Tuchel back in September 2016.
‘Not angry, but disappointed’
Half a decade on, Pulisic has worked himself back into favor at Chelsea and Tuchel is getting the best out of the American again — but speaking about the chances his team spurned, not least the early Werner chance, Tuchel was clearly irked.
“I’m maybe not angry but disappointed,” Tuchel said.”To have such big chances in these situations and not take them it’s disappointing as a coach.” Chelsea’s German defender Rüdiger was clearly satisfied with the result: “Our fate is in our hands, and that is good”.
Chelsea were unable to hang on to the lead Pulisic had given them though. Karim Benzema brought a difficult ball under his spell and acrobatically volleyed it into the roof of the net from close range — a fine piece of skill by a sometimes underappreciated player.
A 1-1 draw was a fair reflection of an absorbing semifinal first leg in the first Champions League game since these two teams and 10 others threatened to leave the competition and join a breakaway Super League.
Despite Real Madrid’s president Florentino Perez having been one of the main instigators of a widely reviled plot, there were no protests or signs of dissent towards UEFA anywhere near Real’s temporary home. for now, at least, the focus returned to the field — and two of Europe’s finest served up a timely reminder of why this competition is so cherished.