Thomas Tuchel frustration proves progress as Chelsea FC let Real Madrid off the hook

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James Robson
·3-min read
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 (REUTERS)
(REUTERS)

Thomas Tuchel's post-match frustration spoke volumes about the strides Chelsea have made in such a short time under his charge.

That there could be disappointment following a draw at Real Madrid in a Champions League semi-final — with the added bonus of an away goal — underlines the impact he has had on the club.

It was justifiable, too.

Christian Pulisic's 14th-minute strike gives them something to defend at Stamford Bridge next week but Tuchel knows Real were let off the hook as Karim Benzema was allowed to equalise against the run of play, while Zinedine Zidane had the chance to reorganise his team after they were repeatedly cut open before the interval.

"I have a feeling that we should have won the first half and we deserved to win the first half," said Tuchel. "Maybe we could have decided this match very, very early in the first half-an-hour when we were playing so, so strong."

Watch: Thomas Tuchel rues lack of composure and precision after Chelsea draw in Madrid

He is not exaggerating.

Timo Werner missed his latest sitter with the game goalless when he fired straight at Thibaut Courtois from point-blank range. Other promising breaks were wasted as Chelsea's final ball let them down.

The visitors were the superior team, yet Tuchel had to settle for a draw and a return leg in which he knows victory would guarantee his side a place in the final.

A goalless draw would do it as well — and if anyone can come up with a strategy to keep a clean sheet, then it is the German, with 16 already since succeeding Frank Lampard in January.

Perhaps that was the biggest surprise last night — that Chelsea did not see out the game once Pulisic put them ahead with his brilliant solo goal.

Benzema's equaliser was sloppy by Chelsea's standards, with Real allowed to win two headers from a corner and the striker having time to control the ball on his chest before swivelling and volleying past Edouard Mendy.

Of encouragement to Tuchel will be the manner in which his side defended after that. With Real going in search of a winner to ensure their advantage going into the second leg, they were limited to precious few chances.

Benzema's goal was their only shot on target in 90 minutes. That they made it count was a reminder of their enduring threat, yet Chelsea will know they contained vastly more experienced opponents with a squad full of serial Champions League winners.

AFP via Getty Images
AFP via Getty Images

This was the latest evidence that the Blues are a coming force in Europe — and but for wasteful finishing they would already have one foot in the final.

Tuchel's fear will be their failure to capitalise on their first-half dominance could come back to haunt them.

Increasingly it is the case that his defenders have to be perfect to compensate for the problems in attack.If Chelsea had Erling Haaland leading their forward line, this tie would almost certainly be over as a contest.

In truth, it was difficult not to imagine the outcome if even Olivier Giroud or Tammy Abraham had been presented with Werner's early chance.

"He missed a big one in West Ham now he missed another big one here," said Tuchel. "That does not help, but it also does not help to cry about it or to regret it all the time.

"Today we were sad, we were angry in the moment, this is normal. He is angry. He is maybe disappointed. Tomorrow he has a free day and the next day he has to put his chin up. As a striker it is easy, you score the next game and nobody speaks about it."

If Chelsea fail to get over the line against Real, Werner's miss will be spoken about for a long time to come.

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