Sports Desk, Apr 6 (EFE).- LaLiga sides shined in the Champions League on Wednesday, as Karim Benzema had a hat trick to lead Real Madrid 3-1 over Chelsea in the first leg of their quarterfinal and underdogs Villarreal shut out Bayern Munich 1-0.
Fourth in career Champions League goals behind Cristiano Ronaldo, Leo Messi, and Robert Lewandowski, the French striker became the first player to post a triple against Chelsea in Europe’s elite club competition.
The Champions League holders started brightly in front of their supporters at Stamford Bridge only to find themselves trailing 2-0 after 24 minutes after conceding twice to Benzema in the space of 180 seconds.
Kai Havertz scored in the 40th minute to halve the deficit, but Benzema restored the two-goal margin in the opening minute of the second half thanks to a shocking mistake by Blues keeper Edouard Mendy.
Aside from a Cesar Azpilicueta strike that forced a good stop from the Blancos’ Thibaut Courtois in the 49th minute, Chelsea suffered from a lack of finishing.
Romelu Lukaku squandered a fabulous chance soon after coming on as a sub in the final half hour and Hakim Ziyech fired over the cross-bar in stoppage time.
While a team with Chelsea’s talent cannot be counted out, going into the Santiago Bernabeu down 3-1 is a daunting prospect and Real Madrid, with their record 13 Champions League titles, look a good bet to reach the final four.
In Villarreal, while ceding possession to talent-laden Bayern, the hosts neutralized Lewandowski and Thomas Müller and Arnaut Danjuma’s goal in the 8th minute proved to be enough.
The visitors were livelier in the second half, but the best opportunities fell to Villarreal, who would certainly prefer to start the second leg in Munich with a bigger lead. EFE