Zidane hails Benzema as Madrid eye Champions League final

Real Madrid's Karim Benzema celebrates

Real Madrid's Karim Benzema celebrates

Real Madrid head coach Zinedine Zidane praised Karim Benzema but insisted he is not surprised by the star forward following his goalscoring performance as Los Blancos battled to a 1-1 draw with Chelsea in the Champions League semi-finals.

Benzema rescued Madrid on Tuesday – the Frenchman cancelling out Christian Pulisic’s 14th-minute opener just before the half-hour mark in the opening leg of the semi-final tie in the Spanish capital.

Madrid’s Benzema once again showcased his importance as he drew level with Raul as the joint-fourth leading scorer in Champions League history after netting his 71st goal.

Only Lionel Messi (36) and Cristiano Ronaldo (35) have scored against more different opponents in the Champions League than Benzema (33, level with Raul).

Benzema, meanwhile, has scored six goals in this season’s Champions League. In only one of his 16 seasons in the competition has he scored more (seven in 2011-12).

“Karim is amazing and I am happy for him, but I am not surprised for what he is doing every game,” Zidane told reporters.

“It is the same with all of my players. They are the most important. They have done again a great effort tonight and keeping the faith in what we are doing.

“There are difficulties, of course, because we have an amazing team in front of us and they are Champions League semi-finals. We have suffered.

“But I am very happy for all of the players, because we are alive. We know we have to go to London and score goals in order to win the game.”

Los Blancos were unable to find a winner in a cagier second half. They have faced Chelsea more often than any other side in all competitions without winning in their entire history, failing to do so in four matches (D2 L2).

Benzema’s goal was Madrid’s solitary shot on target against Chelsea. Only versus Paris Saint-Germain in September 2019 – when they had none – have they had fewer in a Champions League game since Opta began collecting such data in 2003-04.

Meanwhile, this was the only game in which Madrid have not scored at least two goals at home this season in the Champions League, though they have still scored the most home goals so far in the competition (14).

“We were much better in the second 45 minutes. We were much more organised. They started strongly and quickly, but I think it’s a fair result,” said Zidane.

“We wanted to press high one on one, but when you don’t carry it out well, things are tough. Once we scored, we were better and controlled play a lot more.

“We’re alive and we’re going to the second leg with the idea of winning. In general, we’re happy with tonight.”

Madrid were without captain Sergio Ramos due to a calf injury but he could return for the second leg in London, with Zidane adding: “I wish he could be with us. I cannot tell you now.

“Sergio has not had any training with the group, so we are waiting for him. We wish he could be as soon as possible.

“All the players, Sergio, and the rest. Lucas [Vazquez] is a bit more complicated due to his injury, but also Ferland [Mendy], Fede [Valverde]. All of them. I want all of my players with me, sure.”