FORGET the miracle of Munich or the ten-man comeback against Barcelona in 2012.
Karim Benzema ended brave Chelsea’s defence of the Champions LeagueCredit: Reuters
Sub Rodrygo rescued Real Madrid late on to send the tie to extra timeCredit: Reuters
Benzema then headed home the winner to break Chelsea heartsCredit: Getty
The Blues were left devastated after almost pulling off a miracle comebackCredit: Reuters
In the end the trophy they won last year had to be prised from their fingers by the remarkable Karim Benzema, whose extra-time strike finally settled this extraordinary match.
Yet Chelsea were still able to leave the Bernabeu with their heads held high after giving the 13-time European champions the absolute fright of their lives.
Left with a seemingly impossible task after last week’s home leg, they reached the very summit of football’s Mount Everest with a performance which even their own manager thought was beyond them.
Tuchel had written off his team’s chances after that 3-1 defeat. But he clearly underestimated the character and resilience of a group of players who simply refused to relinquish their grip on the European Cup.
And if we thought that Sunday’s Manchester City versus Liverpool clash was as good as this game could get, well last night we were all forced to think again.
Because not only did Chelsea overturn that two-goal deficit, with ten minutes to go they were actually leading on aggregate and had one foot in the semi-finals.
But in the end their Herculean efforts proved just too much to withstand as the runaway LaLiga leaders snatched victory from the jaws of a humiliating defeat.
Tuchel had complained before this game that his team were at a physical disadvantage as a consequence of playing more games than any other team in Europe and not having the luxury of five subs per game.
Yet it wasn’t until the 83rd minute of this monumental slog that he made his first change as his players finally ran out of steam.
And he still hadn’t used his full complement of five when the whistle finally blew after 120 minutes of absolute mayhem.
After strolling to victory at the Bridge last week, Real were far less comfortable with the concept of an opponent coming to the Bernabeu and not simply rolling over.
Timo Werner and Kai Havertz might not be the most prolific strikers in the world, but they were pulling their markers all over the place with their pace and movement.
And their diligence was rewarded in the 15th minute when Chelsea grabbed the early goal they so desperately needed to keep this tie alive.
Mateo Kovacic and Ruben Loftus-Cheek exchanged quick passes and when the ball bounced off Werner it fell perfectly for Mason Mount to burst through the middle and smash one into the top corner.
It was the England star’s first Champions League goal since the 2-0 win against these same opponents in last year’s semi-final at the Bridge.
And it left the Bernabeu stunned into silence, with the only noise coming from the travelling Chelsea fans up in the gods.
Mason Mount got Chelsea off to a flyer at the BernabeuCredit: Reuters
All of a sudden we had a real game on our hands as anxious Madridistas were doubting their team’s prospects for the first time.
Chelsea were growing in confidence, dominating possession and really starting to believe that it was not mission impossible after all.
After all, it was only three weeks ago that Barcelona had triumphed here 4-0, so winning by two certainly wasn’t out of the question for a team of Chelsea’s pedigree.
And while Tuchel’s men knew exactly how they needed to keep playing, Real were suddenly caught between two stools as they dithered over whether to defend their lead or press forward to put the tie to bed.
But those doubts were taken out of the equation when Chelsea scored again in the 51st minute to leave the 13-time European Champions reeling.
Luka Modric was adamant that he had not deflected Reece James’ shot for a corner, but Polish referee Szymon Marciniak was adamant the ball had brushed his studs.
And when Mount delivered a deep cross into the danger zone, Antonio Rudiger simply barged everyone out of his way to bury a thunderous header beyond Thibaut Courtois.
Doubting Thomas thought he was in dreamland when Marcos Alonso stuck another absolute rocket into the top corner after 62 minutes.
Marciniak had no doubts that it was a goal and pointed straight to the centre circle.
But eagle-eyed David Alaba had spotted that the ball had flicked Alonso’s hand before he struck and after a lengthy VAR check the goal was agonisingly ruled out.
Timo Werner thought he had won it for the Blues with his strikeCredit: Reuters
No matter, though, because 13 minutes later Werner twisted his way past Casemiro and Alaba to beat Courtois again. And this time no one was going to deny Chelsea.
Now all they needed to do was to see out the final 15 minutes and they were through to the semi-finals.
But the proud Spanish giants were not going out without a fight and ten minutes from time Modric’s exquisite ball with the outside of his boot was volleyed home by substitute Rodrygo.
It was an absolute body blow for the flagging Blues who were now faced with the prospect of a further 30 minutes of extra-time to stretch them to their mental and physical limits.
And inevitably it was Benzema, the scorer of a Stamford Bridge hat-trick last week, who finally delivered the coup de grace when he took advantage of Rudiger’s slip to head home Vinicius’ 95th minute cross.
It was a brilliant end to a magnificent match. And no matter what happens in the remaining games of this competition, nothing is going to top this one.
Karim Benzema would have the final say as Real advanced to the semi finalCredit: Getty