Tuchel praises Chelsea players for reaching limit against Real Madrid

The Blues won 3-2 after extra time at the Santiago Bernabeu but they went out 5-4 on aggregate

By Reuters/AFP

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Chelsea's Marcos Alonso and Real Madrid's Rodrygo tumble off the pitch during the match. — Reuters
Chelsea's Marcos Alonso and Real Madrid's Rodrygo tumble off the pitch during the match. — Reuters

Published: Wed 13 Apr 2022, 10:13 PM

Last updated: Wed 13 Apr 2022, 10:16 PM

Chelsea manager Thomas Tuchel praised his players’ efforts in their 3-2 win after extra time at Real Madrid on Tuesday, although the result was not enough to take them to the Champions League semifinals as they went out 5-4 on aggregate.

“We went to the full limit today. I’m very proud of my players and I think we deserved to qualify but luck was not on our side,” Tuchel told a news conference.

“We were unlucky. That is why we are disappointed. We got beaten by individual quality and finishing. We made two mistakes, two ball losses. We deserved to go through after this match today. It was not meant to be.”

Real saw off a stirring fightback by the holders to book a place in the semis — against Manchester City or Atletico Madrid — after a scintillating second leg at the Bernabeu.

“There are no regrets. These are the kinds of defeats you can take with pride as a sportsman,” Tuchel said.

“We were very disciplined on the ball and very active and invested off the ball. We showed courage and from there we showed our quality. This is the right way to do it. If we have this kind of effort, we are a special team.”

Tuchel has been critical of his team’s performance in the first leg, when Real dominated at Stamford Bridge and won 3-1.

He said then that rescuing the tie would be “impossible,” lighting a fire under his players who came to Madrid with a different attitude.

“We showed a lot of courage and quality. I’m very happy, this is the way to go forward,” Tuchel added.

“The demand at Chelsea is very high and the players responded in a way that makes all of us proud.

“They lived up to the plan in a very different way than we did against Brentford (in a 4-1 home Premier League defeat) and in the first leg. This is the huge difference.

“We were never shy of making the point that this is the most important: how we live up to a tactic and perform in the structure. This was at the full limit today.”

Real Madrid were given an almighty scare by Chelsea but the eternal brilliance of Luka Modric and Karim Benzema prevailed and now they are in sight of their 14th European Cup.

With the Santiago Bernabeu just about empty, except for the Chelsea fans still singing up in the highest corner, down below the talk had already turned to Madrid not just reaching the final, but winning the tournament again. “Nobody can say we’re not going to win it,” said Real coach Carlo Ancelotti.

It will be Real Madrid’s eighth semifinal in 10 years and of the previous seven, they were crowned champions four times. Since the start of the Champions League era, they have reached 15 semis in total and on seven of those occasions went on to lift the cup.

Modric showed against Chelsea, with that mesmerising pass to Rodrygo with the outside of his right foot, how he can still manipulate the biggest nights in Real Madrid’s favour.

At 36, there is a strong argument to say Modric is playing better than ever.

“We were dead until the goal we scored,” said Modric. “We didn’t give up. We kept believing, kept fighting.”

Even at 3-0 down against Chelsea, Madrid never panicked. They knew one moment was all it would take to bend another of these nerve-shredding games to their will.

“At the Bernabeu, nothing is ever lost,” said Ancelotti.

“I can’t explain it but there is a magic at the Bernabeu that helps you.”

It is the psychological reward that comes from housing 13 European Cups and — for the likes of Modric, Benzema, Casemiro and Kroos — winning four in five years.

Now they have their eyes on a fifth.

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