'A defeat that is very sweet' – Real Madrid's Modric relieved after Chelsea loss

By Sports Desk April 12, 2022

Luka Modric described Real Madrid's 3-2 loss to Chelsea on Tuesday that sent them through the Champions League semi-finals as a "defeat that is very sweet."

An uncharacteristically poor performance that led to a 3-1 loss in the first leg at Stamford Bridge meant Chelsea had the proverbial mountain to climb at the Santiago Bernabeu.

Yet the Blues took a 3-0 lead on Tuesday, putting them up 4-3 on aggregate, before Eduardo Camavinga's substitution for Toni Kroos and Modric's sublime assist for Rodrygo changed the complexion of the game and tie. Karim Benzema's goal in extra time eventually separated the two sides.

The Croatia international said afterwards that, given his familiarity with Chelsea, he knew the return leg was not going to be routine.

"We knew after the first leg that we will have a tough game, because for me, they [Chelsea] are the most difficult team to play against," Modric told BT Sport. "I watch them a lot because of my friend Mateo [Kovacic] and they are a very tough, physical team, very compact and we knew it was going to be tough.

"In the end, we showed great character, great desire, great togetherness and we managed to turn it around, which is amazing. A defeat that is very sweet."

Tuesday's game resembled the first leg in last year's Champions League semi-final between the two, with Chelsea pressing intensely and piercing through in transition.

Thomas Tuchel's side dictated a very high tempo early, but Madrid were able to feel their way through the game, making sufficient adjustments and gaining momentum late.

"Unbelievable to describe this game. We were dead until the goal we scored," Modric said. "Chelsea scored three good goals, maybe the first goal was a bit lucky with the deflection, but I cannot say that we played a bad game."

According to Madrid coach Carlo Ancelotti, his side levelling on aggregate took momentum away from Chelsea, while also saving particular praise for the 36-year-old Ballon d'Or winner.

"The changes were important, in retrospect I must say that with the goal of 3-1, they took a good blow on a psychological level," he said.

"Modric was amazing with that assist, from there we build the second goal and then we managed."

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    Benzema scored Madrid's second goal in a 2-0 Super Cup triumph over Eintracht Frankfurt at the Helsinki Olympic Stadium.

    In the process, he became the club's outright second-highest goalscorer, having netted for the 324th time for Madrid.

    That nudged the 34-year-old – who has replaced the departed Marcelo as Madrid's club captain – ahead of Los Blancos great Raul, with only Cristiano Ronaldo (450) ahead of him in the record books.

    Since the start of last season, Benzema has scored 45 goals in all competitions for Madrid. That is a tally bettered only by new Barcelona forward Robert Lewandowski (50), when it comes to players from Europe's top five leagues.

    With this year's Ballon d'Or awards taking place prior to the World Cup, Benzema seems a certainty to be in the running for the prize.

    In a pre-match media briefing on Tuesday, Benzema explained that it was not for him to say if he is the world's best, but instead he would leave it up to others to decide. 

    Asked in his post-match news conference if Benzema – who had four shots and created three chances in Madrid's win on Wednesday - could be considered the best player on the planet, Ancelotti was effusive in his reply.

    "I think [he is the best], yes," Ancelotti said. "He is our most important player right now, the most efficient player in the world at this moment.

    "Karim was the most important in the Champions League, even though he did not score in the final, because of his [all-round] game and his goals got us to the final, against Manchester City and Chelsea, against Paris Saint-Germain.

    "He's very important for us. There is no doubt, at the moment, that he is the best player in the world."

    As well as hailing a standout individual in Benzema, Ancelotti - the first coach to win the Super Cup on four separate occasions - said this Madrid dressing room is the best he has worked with in his illustrious career.

    "Yes, absolutely, no doubt about that," the Italian explained. "It is a pleasure to coach this group, it's a healthy atmosphere, good vibes between everyone, winning games and having success helps, but it all about the players."

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    David Alaba put Madrid ahead before Karim Benzema moved to outright second in the club's all-time goalscoring charts with a second-half finish past Kevin Trapp.

    Benzema's effort took him to 324 goals in all competitions for Madrid, putting him one ahead of legendary Spain forward Raul and trailing only Cristiano Ronaldo (450).

    The triumph in Helsinki makes Ancelotti the first coach to win the Super Cup four times, and Casemiro does not think the Italian is planning to stop collecting the silverware anytime soon.

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    Goals from David Alaba and Benzema – who moved above Raul in Madrid's all-time goalscoring charts – sealed a deserved win for the Champions League holders on Wednesday.

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    "We have to continue training well, Ancelotti managed the squad, today we don't contemplate anything else," he told Movistar after the match.

    "Look at all the strikers we have. If he [Benzema] does [get injured] we have so many strikers that it won't be noticed."

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