by Deutsche Presse-Agentur – dpa
Real Madrid’s Karim Benzema (C) celebrates with teammates after scoring the 1-0 lead during the UEFA Champions League quarterfinal, first leg soccer match between Chelsea FC and Real Madrid in London, Britain, April 6, 2022. (EPA Photo)
Karim Benzema scored back-to-back Champions League hat tricks as record winners Real Madrid took a big step toward the semifinal with a 3-1 victory at title holders Chelsea on Wednesday.
France striker Benzema headed home twice within three minutes midway through the first half and completed his treble seconds after the restart owing to a terrible blunder from goalkeeper Edouard Mendy.
Benzema had also scored a hat trick in the previous game Real won with the same 3-1 scoreline against Paris Saint-Germain in the last 16.
Kai Havertz was on target shortly before half-time for the Blues, who eliminated Real in last year’s semis, now face an uphill battle next week at the Bernabéu.
“They’re magic nights, like the other day at the Bernabéu against Paris. Today we came out to win, to show we’re Real Madrid,” Benzema told Movistar Plus.
There was more joy for Spain as Europa League winners Villarreal beat harmless Bayern Munich 1-0 from Arnaut Danjuma’s early strike in their next upset bid following a last 16 elimination of Juventus.
The other two first-leg games were played on Tuesday, with Liverpool well placed, winning 3-1 at Benfica while Manchester City edged Atletico Madrid 1-0.
Former Chelsea boss Carlo Ancelotti tested negative just in time to make it to Stamford Bridge after a coronavirus infection at the helm of Real and saw the unmarked Benzema head the opening goal in the 21st minute off a cross from Vinicius Junior, who had hit the top of the bar earlier.
The goal rattled the Blues, who had crashed 4-1 on the weekend against Brentford, and three minutes later Benzema wrong-footed Mendy by artistically heading Luka Modric’s cross into the far corner.
Havertz revived Chelsea’s hopes in the 40th when he headed in Jorginho’s chipped ball over the Real defense.
But Chelsea’s comeback attempt stalled seconds after the restart when Mendy made a mess out of a routine pass to Antonio Rüdiger, which left Benzema with an easy shot into the empty net for his 11th goal of the competition. Romelo Lukaku came on only to head wide from a perfect position in the culmination of Chelsea’s woes.
“It is a heavy loss. It was one of the worst first halves that I saw from us here at Stamford Bridge,” Chelsea manager Thomas Tuchel told BT Sport. “If we keep playing like this … we will get hammered at Bernabeu.”
In Villarreal, Bayern left-back Alphonso Davies played his first game of the year after heart issues but it was the hosts who drew first blood after eight minutes when Danjuma fired a low shot to complete a slick move on the right wing with his sixth goal of the campaign.
Bayern was out of sorts but lucky because Francis Coquelin was ruled offside before his seemingly attempted cross went in, Gerard Moreno was denied by the left post, and Moreno then missed the empty net from his own half after a mistake from goalkeeper Manuel Neuer.
“It was a deserved defeat. We weren’t good today. We didn’t defend well and lost too many balls,” Munich coach Julian Nagelsmann told streaming portal DAZN.
Forward Thomas Müller vowed: “We must now prepare for the return leg and hit back.”