Holders Chelsea crushed by Karim Benzema's hat-trick in Champions League rout

Real Madrid star runs riot at Stamford Bridge to give the Spaniards a 3-1 lead after first leg of quarter-final

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Karim Benzema bullied Chelsea to the brink of relinquishing their Champions League crown with a stunning hat-trick in Real Madrid’s 3-1 triumph at Stamford Bridge.

The prolific striker moved his competition return to 13 in just seven matches as Real overwhelmed the Blues in Wednesday’s quarter-final first-leg.

Benzema took his season’s tally to 37 goals in 36 matches for Real, handing his side an outstanding opportunity to reach the semi-finals in their bid to land a 14th Champions League title.

Hat-trick hero Benzema said afterwards: "They're magic nights, like the other day at the Bernabeu against Paris. Today we came out to win, to show we're Real Madrid. Things worked out well for us as we played well, from the first minute to the last.

"They're very important goals. I'm happiest to have scored the third as I missed one in the first half and I was thinking about that chance because it's very important to score goals. Then I got another and I’m very happy."

The 34-year-old stalked the beleaguered Andreas Christensen as he scored twice in the first-half.

Kai Havertz dragged Chelsea back into the contest from nowhere before the break, but the luckless Edouard Mendy gifted Benzema his hat-trick goal with an under hit pass.

Chelsea will now need a performance to trump perhaps all others from Thomas Tuchel’s highly-decorated reign to overturn this deficit in Madrid’s intimidating Bernabeu Stadium next week.

Madrid, meanwhile, will head home in total control of this tie, with former Chelsea manager and figurehead Carlo Ancelotti particularly buoyed.

Chelsea coach Thomas Tuchel during the match. AFP

The Italian coach almost did not make it to his old Stamford Bridge stomping ground due to Covid, but returned a negative test in time to link up with his players on the morning of the match.

Ancelott said: "Played well. Good control of the game, good build up from the back, dangerous counterattack. It was a good night but it is only the first half of this round.

"It was really good. We showed good organisation defensively. We had a fantastic performance up front from Benzema. A good performance.

"We have an advantage. We have to prepare for the next game in the league and then Tuesday will be another game. We have a lot of respect for this team who were the winners of the last Champions League."

Benzema’s three-minute, one-two punch left Chelsea flailing.

First he nodded home by racing on to Vinicius’ cross, then the Real talisman showed the other side of his aerial prowess, hanging in the air to dispatch Luka Modric’s delivery.

Carlo Ancelotti and Chelsea's  coach Thomas Tuchel at the whistle. AFP

A confused Chelsea found themselves staggering around the Stamford Bridge pitch. None more so than the hapless Christensen, who wound up continually exposed by Chelsea’s first-half system.

Benzema should have completed his hat-trick before half-time too, only to drive a low shot wide of the goal.

That let-off seemed to clear Chelsea’s haze and in a flash they were on the scoreboard.

Jorginho’s sumptuous lofted ball bisected the Real defence, allowing Havertz to steal in at the far post and nod home.

Hakim Ziyech and Mateo Kovacic replaced Christensen and N’Golo Kante at half-time, with Tuchel well aware the shape had to change.

The Blues went to a flat-back four, but had not even settled when disaster struck.

Mendy underhit a pass to Toni Rudiger when out of his area and Benzema pounced, rolling the ball home to complete his devastating treble.

Tuchel emptied the bench in a bid to claw another foothold, but £98million striker Romelu Lukaku could in no way follow Benzema’s lead.

Where the Real marksman had proved unerring, instead Lukaku could only nod wide from a glorious chance.

Updated: April 07, 2022, 3:25 AM