Madrid, Apr 27 (EFE).- A bit of brilliance from Karim Benzema spared Real Madrid from defeat to Chelsea here Tuesday in the first leg of their Champions League semifinal.
Fifteen minutes after Christian Pulisic gave the visitors the lead, Benzema brought the home side level with a tremendous volley.
The Frenchman’s 13 goal in his last 13 matches also moved him into a tie with retired Real Madrid star Raul for fourth all-time in Champions League goals.
At the other end of the pitch, goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois confirmed his emergence as a pillar of stability for the Blancos in a season marked by inconsistency, limiting the potent Blues attack to just one goal.
The Belgian denied Timo Werner from point-blank range in the 10th minute, but couldn’t stop Pulisic four minutes later on a sequence that exposed Real Madrid’s problems on the back line.
Antonio Rüdiger found the US international in the area with a ball over the top. As neither Raphael Varane nor Nacho challenged Pulisic, Courtois came off his line and the American went around the keeper to hammer home.
Benzema hit the post in the 23rd minute on the Blancos first serious attack on a rainy night in Madrid, shortly before Chelsea’s Ben Chilwell fired wide of the target on an opportunity created by Pulisic.
As the match approached the half-hour mark, Real Madrid won a corner.
Casemiro got his head to Marcelo’s cross and sent the ball across the goal to Eder Militao, who redirected to Benzema. The striker maneuvered the ball onto his foot and blasted it past Chelsea keeper Edouard Mendy to make it 1-1.
The hosts advanced their lines after the break and Courtois had a relatively quiet second half. Militao turned aside an effort from Werner in the 48th minute while the Blancos keeper dealt comfortably with a Hakim Ziyech free kick in the 79th.
Real Madrid had a pair of chances in the 88th minute. Toni Kroos’ strike from distance deflected harmlessly off N’Golo Kante seconds before Varane’s header bounced off of Chilwell.
With 24 minutes left, Blancos coach Zinedine Zidane pulled an ineffective Vinicius in favor of former Chelsea man Eden Hazard, who appeared to have fully recovered from the injury that sidelined him for more than a month. EFE rmm/dr