Karim Benzema waged a one-man war to keep Real Madrid in the game against Chelsea

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PETE JENSON: Karim Benzema waged a one-man war to keep Real Madrid in against Chelsea … the Frenchman saves Zinedine Zidane after scoring his 71st Champions League goal and will play a key role in the Stamford Bridge return

When Karim Benzema was eliminated three minutes before time, Zinedine Zidane stopped him as he passed him and said something in his ear. No one would be surprised if it was, whatever you do, don’t eat up for the second leg.

Drenched to the skin, the Frenchman was handed a coat and took his place under cover. He had saved the team that was almost blown away by the Chelsea storm in the early part of the first half.

“They dominated the first 20 minutes, but after scoring it was the game we wanted,” Marcelo said after the game. ‘There is one more game to play. It will be different in the second game. ‘

Karim Benzema waged a one-man war to keep Real Madrid in the semi-final with Chelsea

The striker was hugged by Zinedine Zidane after being substituted at the end of the game

The striker was hugged by Zinedine Zidane after being substituted at the end of the game

Benzema has now scored 28 goals in 40 games this season.

It was his 71st Champions League attack and that puts him on a par with Raul and just two behind Robert Lewandowski, with Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo leading 50 goals.

Benzema also hit the post when he waged a one-man war to keep Madrid in play. That was his 13th attempt next to the post this season.

Madrid fans will hope that Marcelo is right and that it is a different race in the second leg. Sergio Ramos, Ferland Mendy and Fede Valverde will all be back and that could make it a different matter.

The forward scored a fantastic goal to nullify Christian Pulisic's opener in the first half

The forward scored a fantastic goal to nullify Christian Pulisic’s opener in the first half

Zidane could have done it with him in the Alfredo di Stefano. Mendy’s absence from the bench meant Marcelo had to go on long after he no longer seemed fit to serve.

Valverde’s energy would also have revived the team in the second half, but the Uruguayan still needs the coronavirus in full to make an appearance in London.

And Ramos, while he may not necessarily improve on the performance of the Madrid back three, especially the excellent Eder Militao, he would have been very helpful in heading into one of those late corners.

One player fit to play in the second half was Eden Hazard, but his impact was minimal. There was one dangerous pass that put Alvaro Odriozola behind Chelsea’s defense, but the fullback’s cross was bad.

Eden Hazard came off the bench but doesn't look fit enough to lead the team on the field

Eden Hazard came off the bench but doesn’t look fit enough to lead the team on the field

Hazard seems far from being the player who can justify the price Madrid paid for him, lead the team on the field and play against Real Madrid in the final.

That means it’s all about Benzema again.

The Spanish expert, former Celta Vigo player Gustavo Lopez said after the game: ‘Benzema cures all ailments. When you are cold, he puts a blanket over you. When you’re hot, he turns on the air conditioning for you. ‘

Where Benzema is, there is hope. And in those first 20 minutes, it seemed like all hope was lost.

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