LONDON -- Real Madrid eased into the Champions League semifinals with a 2-0 victory at Stamford Bridge on Tuesday, sealing a 4-0 aggregate win over Chelsea.
N'Golo Kante wasted a superb chance in each half with the score 0-0 on the night as the Blues attempted to rally, but a classic Real counterattack saw Rodrygo race clear of the hosts' defence before eventually converting from close range. Rodrygo then added a second 10 minutes from time as Real cruised to another last-four appearance, where they will face either Bayern Munich or Manchester City.
Chelsea have now lost four consecutive matches across all competitions for the first time since November 1993.
1. Lampard's tactical plan delivers hope but no goals
Nobody would have predicted Chelsea's starting lineup. It seemed an unusual choice for a notoriously goal-shy team to line up with Kante and Conor Gallagher as unorthodox No. 10s behind a player most comfortable as a false nine in Kai Havertz in a 3-4-2-1 shape.
The benefit was to harass the ageing legs of Toni Kroos and Luka Modric in midfield while trying to force Real into mistakes at the back. The high-octane start energised Stamford Bridge and ensured Chelsea showed the most purpose and cohesion yet in Lampard's four games in charge.
The downside of having Kante and Gallagher in such advanced positions, however, is that neither is a clinical finisher. Kante missed two excellent chances, one in each half when the score was 0-0 on the night, which would have given the tie a completely different feel.
In contrast to the first leg, when Chelsea got the balance wrong early on and left themselves exposed in defence, they "stayed in the game" as caretaker boss Frank Lampard had suggested they would try to do beforehand. As is the story of their season, though, Chelsea failed to translate their best spell of the game to the scoreline. Real knew that Chelsea would have to take more risks as the game wore on, which is precisely how they scored both goals on the counterattack.
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Ultimately, the game plan failed, but Lampard at least found a way for Chelsea to be competitive. The challenge is repeating it in the coming weeks.
2. Chelsea's season is firmly over
Where on Earth do Chelsea go from here? Lampard has a mammoth task in trying to lift his beleaguered squad for their final seven Premier League games after this Champions League quarterfinal exit left them with virtually nothing to play for. There is an improbable set of results that could leave a Europa Conference League place within their grasp, but even that looks like a tall order given they lie in the bottom half of the table and are painfully low on confidence having not won a game in a month with just one goal in six games.
There was very little chance of Lampard getting the job on a full-time basis. It almost certainly relied on him somehow masterminding a Champions League final appearance as interim bosses did before him in 2012 and 2021, but now a scramble to achieve any sort of midtable respectability is his fate. The club is interviewing candidates to be the next permanent manager, having spoken to Julian Nagelsmann, Luis Enrique and Ruben Amorim among others, and Lampard's task is to lift morale as much as possible and elicit some positivity from the holding pattern the club is effectively in until a transitional summer can begin.
3. Courtois has the last laugh
Thibaut Courtois was on Chelsea's books for seven years, but they don't like him in these parts. Going on strike to force through a move to Real Madrid -- and using various interviews to try to talk Eden Hazard into making the same move -- made him a deeply unpopular figure in west London and earned him the nickname The Snake by Chelsea fans angered by his apparent duplicitous behaviour. One fan in the Matthew Harding End had a yellow rubber snake confiscated by a steward after trying to throw it in Courtois' direction during the first half.
By contrast, Antonio Rudiger -- returning to Stamford Bridge for the first time following his free transfer to Real last summer -- was given a respectful reception, aside from a few isolated fans behind the goal he defended in the second half. Regardless, Courtois had the last laugh, making a fine save from Marc Cucurella in the first half, denying Enzo Fernandez in the second and keeping a clean sheet that helped Real reach the semifinals with a degree of comfort.
Best and worst performers
BEST: Vinicius Junior, Real Madrid. Worked his way into position to lay on the opening goal, which effectively settled the tie.
BEST: Rodrygo, Real Madrid. Two simple finishes but just reward for an all-action display.
BEST: Federico Valverde, Real Madrid. A bundle of energy who played a key role in Real's second goal.
WORST: Marc Cucurella, Chelsea. Missed a good first-half chance by taking an extra touch and was caught out of position for Real's goal.
WORST: Kai Havertz, Chelsea. Unable to trouble Real's defenders on a consistent basis.
WORST: N'Golo Kante, Chelsea. Finishing has never been the strongest part of his game, but Kante missed two chances that cost Chelsea dearly.
Highlights and notable moments
Scoring the goal that sealed the tie for Madrid is just reward for Rodrygo's lung-busting run, beating Trevoh Chalobah to the long, bending ball sent forward by Eder Militao.
RODRYGO SILENCES STAMFORD BRIDGE. 😤 pic.twitter.com/hp4qBFbbne— CBS Sports Golazo ⚽️ (@CBSSportsGolazo) April 18, 2023
After the match: What the players/managers said
Rodrygo: "It's a pleasure to be here at Real Madrid, the biggest team in the world, we know we have almost the obligation to get to semifinals and finals and to win the Champions League. Since I arrived we've had that in our heads, we have to go far, we have to play well, and that's what we've done since I've been here, we've gone far in this competition."
Gallagher: "I feel like we played well and had a lot of chances, but football is all about taking your chances, which we didn't do today. Of course we are going to be gutted. We haven't got [the cutting edge] at the minute, but that was definitely a big improvement on recent performances."
Key stats (provided by ESPN Stats & Information research)
- With his assist on Rodrygo's opening goal, Vinicius now has 11 goal contributions (six goals, five assists) in the Champions League this season, one behind Erling Haaland for the most in the competition.
- Rodrygo's five Champions League knockout-round goals are as many as Ronaldo Nazario, Zinedine Zidane and Ivan Helguera scored for Madrid.
Chelsea: The slog that is Chelsea's season continues a week from Wednesday, when Brentford visit Stamford Bridge for a west London derby in the Premier League.
Real Madrid: Los Blancos return to the Spanish capital for a LaLiga contest against Celta Vigo at the Santiago Bernabeu on Saturday (3 p.m. ET, stream live on ESPN+).