Chelsea have it all to do if they are to advance to the Champions League semi-finals after losing to holders Real Madrid at the Bernabeu.
Karim Benzema’s tap-in – his 90th goal in the competition – gave Real boss Carlo Ancelotti the perfect start against his former club.
Real Madrid struggled to add to their lead before Ben Chilwell was shown a straight red card in the 59th minute for fouling Rodrygo as the Brazil forward threatened to go clean through on goal.
Chelsea produced a battling performance but Real scored what could be a decisive second goal when substitute Marco Asensio finished well after the visitors were caught out following a short corner.
Chelsea carried more of an attacking threat after the tepid performance against Wolves in Frank Lampard’s first game back as interim manager, and had chances of their own.
Joao Felix forced Thibaut Courtois into a smart save when the game was goalless before the former Chelsea keeper produced a fine diving stop to deny Raheem Sterling an equaliser.
Chelsea must score at least twice in next Tuesday’s quarter-final return leg at Stamford Bridge, but they are now without a goal in their past four matches.
They were denied a late goal when former Chelsea defender Antonio Rudiger produced a superb block to deny substitute Mason Mount a goal that would have sent the Blues into the second leg in high spirits.
The Champions League is their last hope of a trophy in this most chaotic of seasons and Felix almost gave the Blues a dream start in the second minute, only to be denied by Courtois.
While Real struggled at times for rhythm in midfield, the return of N’Golo Kante improved Chelsea’s engine room, while Felix continued to keep Courtois on his toes before he was replaced after Chilwell was sent off in the 59th minute.
Chelsea owner Todd Boehly said in an interview with Sky Sports before the game that “we’re excited about the future” while also predicting his club would win 3-0 against Real Madrid.
It is hard to see where the excitement is coming from after a fifth game without a win and the team drifting in the bottom half of the Premier League table.
This was Chelsea’s ninth Champions League game of the season with their third different manager.
Since Ancelotti was sacked by the Blues in May 2011 after finishing second in the table, Chelsea have gone through 10 permanent managers – sacking seven, including Lampard in January 2021.
Lampard had been due to work at this game as a television pundit until he answered Chelsea’s call to take charge until the end of the season.
The club legend, however, has now suffered 13 defeats in his past 16 matches in all competitions across spells with Everton and Chelsea this season.
Ancelotti said on the eve of this tie that he was “sad” about Chelsea’s poor form yet his Real Madrid side added to his former club’s problems.
Real were far from their fluid best but did enough to establish a healthy advantage as they look to win the competition for a record 15th time.
Vinicius Junior and Rodrygo were a handful as Real registered 18 attempts, while Courtois was a solid last line of defence.
Rudiger’s block to deny Mount at the end was crucial. Having helped Chelsea win the Champions League in 2021, the German showed what a shrewd addition he is after moving to Real on a free transfer last June.