Real Madrid v Chelsea: Blues suffer second defeat under Antonio Conte despite spirited second-half fight-back
In contrast to the fiercely contested nature of last Wednesday’s 2-1 victory against Liverpool, Chelsea’s clash against the European champions failed to offer the same sort of fireworks.
After initial doubts over whether the game would even take place on account of the weather, the kick-off was finally given the go ahead at the Michigan Stadium much to the relief of the fans. But this relief soon turned to disappointment for those in blue as Antonio Conte’s side were blown away by an impressive Real Madrid side – all within the space of one half.
Against the backdrop of North America’s largest stadium, the La Liga giants got the ball running not long after the 20th minute. It was Marcelo who drew first blood, embarking on one of his trademark runs down the left before drifting dangerously inwards towards the Chelsea goal.
From the edge of the box the Brazilian was gifted far too much space and time by a sleepy Chelsea defence who were justly punished for their negligence. The Madrid left-back unleashed his shot on goal which found its way past Chelsea’s Asmir Begovic thanks to a fortunate deflection.
With the wind in their sails, Los Blancos cranked up the pressure. It wasn’t long before that man Marcelo was up to his usual tricks again and following a neat one-two with Marco Asensio, stormed into the Chelsea box from the left-flank. Keeping Nemanja Matic at bay, Marcelo held his cool to fire his second.
For all their effort, the Blues struggled to break down their opposition as they attempted to counter Madrid’s overwhelming forward play with their own attacks. Pedro came closest in the first half but a last-second stumble prevented him from getting any form of shot on goal.
Mariano settled it for the Spaniards six minutes before half-time with a strike from 30 yards out which swerved on its way in but really ought to have been saved by the Bosnian keeper.
At 3-0 down, Chelsea looked well on their way for a good beating. However, the introduction of Juan Cuadrado and Michy Batshuayi after the break changed the dynamics of the game.
Madrid made their own changes – bringing in youngsters such as Martin Odegaard and Enzo Ferndandez – which will have certainly handed Conte’s side the upper-hand, but the Chelsea newcomers impressed nonetheless.
Batshuayi added a real urgency to the game while Cuadrado threatened with his piercing runs. Five minutes after the whistle had been blown for the second half and Batshuayi came close, turning on a sixpence just outside the Madrid penalty area before releasing an accurate but ultimately weak attempt on goal.
It was not until Eden Hazard had made his long-awaited return to the pitch that the Chelsea fight-back really heated up. With 10 minutes to go, Nathaniel Chalobah slotted the Belgium international in behind the Madrid defence who took the ball around goalkeeper Ruben Yanez to pull one back.
Moments later, in near-identical circumstances, Hazard was once again released behind the Spanish backline thanks to a beautifully weighted pass from Batshuayi. Yanez repeated his earlier mistake and rushed to intercept the ball but was beaten to it by the Belgian who subsequently slotted in Chelsea’s second with ease.
After such a disappointing first half, the Blues had clearly responded well but it was ultimately not enough.
Nonetheless, Conte will have been impressed by his side’s second half performance. Cuadrado and Batshuayi, in particular, were Chelsea’s stand out players and injected a genuine sense of excitement into the game that had been missing from the first half. And although the young Belgian missed a clear one-on-chance earlier on in the second half, his strength on the ball as well as his pace hinted at what is to come.
Despite the scoreline, it was a spirited comeback from the Blues that should give fans plenty to smile about.