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'He's getting better every day like wine' - Praise for Real's veteran superstar

Karim Benzema starred in the first leg defeat of Chelsea.

Karim Benzema of Real Madrid during the UEFA Champions League match at Stamford Bridge.
Karim Benzema of Real Madrid during the UEFA Champions League match at Stamford Bridge.
Image: Alamy Stock Photo

CARLO ANCELOTTI hailed Karim Benzema’s “fantastic” hat-trick as he fired Real Madrid to a 3-1 win against Chelsea that put the Champions League holders on the brink of elimination after Wednesday’s quarter-final first leg.

Benzema produced a masterclass at Stamford Bridge as the France striker netted twice in the first half with two perfectly-taken headers.

Kai Havertz reduced the deficit before the interval, but Benzema punished a woeful mistake from Chelsea keeper Edouard Mendy in the second half to complete his treble.

It was the sublime Benzema’s second successive Champions League hat-trick after he single-handedly inspired their epic comeback against Paris Saint-Germain in the last 16 second leg.

Ancelotti’s side are in pole position to advance to the semi-finals as they return to Madrid for the second leg on April 12.

After losing to Chelsea in last season’s Champions League semi-finals, Real will have the opportunity to exact revenge at the Bernabeu.

“We had a fantastic performance up front from Benzema,” Ancelotti said.

“He’s getting better every day like wine. We played well. It was a good night.

“We have an advantage but we have a lot of respect for this team who were the winners of the last Champions League.”

Real won the last of their 13 Champions League titles in 2018 and, while they may not be favourites in this year’s tournament, their ruthless victory in west London was a significant statement of intent from the La Liga leaders.

With 11 goals this term, Benzema has scored more times than any other Frenchman in a single European Cup campaign, moving past Just Fontaine’s 10-goal haul in 1958-59.

“They’re magic nights. Today we came out to win, to show we’re Real Madrid,” Benzema said.

“We played well from the first minute to the last. They’re very important goals.”

Chelsea were a shadow of the supremely organised side that marched to their second Champions League crown last year and won six successive games in all competitions before the recent international break.

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Meanwhile, Thomas Tuchel claims Chelsea have no chance of advancing to the Champions League semi-finals.

Tuchel’s side were rocked by Benzema’s brilliant treble at Stamford Bridge and the shell-shocked Blues boss conceded the holders’ reign is almost certainly over.

With away goals no longer counting double in the Champions League, Chelsea could force extra-time with a two-goal victory in the quarter-final second leg on 12 April at the Bernabeu.

But Tuchel does not have any expectation of a dramatic fightback after Chelsea followed their 4-1 loss to Brentford in the Premier League on Saturday with another wretched display.

Asked if Chelsea could still go through, Tuchel said: “No. Not at the moment. Because we have to find our level back. I don’t know where it is since the international break.

“We can’t demand ourselves to turn it around if this is our performance. How many clubs won with what we need? Perhaps it is only realistic to answer like this.

“If we keep playing like this we will lose at Southampton on Saturday and then we will get hammered at Bernabeu.”

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AFP

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