Chelsea had Ben Chilwell sent off as they fell to a 2-0 defeat to holders Real Madrid in the first leg of their Champions League quarter-final.
The visitors were already a goal down in the Bernabeu when Chilwell was red carded for a foul on Real forward Rodrygo just before the hour, after Karim Benzema had scored his 89th goal in the competition to give his team a half-time lead.
At that stage, Chelsea looked happy to escape with a one-goal deficit ahead of the second leg on Tuesday, but Real doubled the size of their task when Marco Asensio fired in a second 16 minutes from the end.
Interim boss Frank Lampard acknowledged before the game that Real were favourites and his words were borne out ruthlessly by Carlo Ancelotti’s side, who inflicted as emphatic a two-goal defeat as Chelsea have suffered in this competition.
They nearly took an early lead when Joao Felix, slipped in by Enzo Fernandez, sprinted away from Eder Militao and, holding off the defender’s efforts to recover, hit his shot low and true but too close to Thibaut Courtois who turned it behind.
Chelsea had begun brightly but soon Real found their flow. Their first chance came when a pattern of short, clever passing around the penalty spot allowed Rodrygo to release Benzema into a channel down the left. His shot to the near post was clutched by Kepa Arrizabalaga.
The hosts rapidly increased their pressure and took the lead after 21 minutes. Dani Carvajal fed Vinicius Junior who found space to strike low at goal. Arrizabalaga stretched to get fingers to the ball, but there inevitably was Benzema, perfectly positioned to sweep home.
Chelsea channelled their disappointment and were almost level direct from kick-off, only Courtois’ reflexes preventing Raheem Sterling from heading past him at the near post from Reece James’s cross.
But if the half would bring a second goal, the European champions looked likelier. Vinicius, perhaps the busiest of Real’s lively front three, sprinted at Wesley Fofana and then beyond him, advancing on goal and slotting past Arrizabalaga, only for the recovering Thiago Silva to produce an acrobatic clearance.
Real were more urgent, more demanding in their press, giving Chelsea no time to look up and play when the ball was won back. When they did settle in possession, Lampard’s side were spread out, playing ponderous 15-yard passes that rarely bothered Real.
When the hosts could not find the spaces to play their intricate attacking game, they attacked instead with direct running. Federico Valverde rampaged through Chelsea’s midfield with ease on the stroke of half-time, drilling low into Arrizabalaga’s grasp.
The second half brought more of the same threat from Real. A superb feint and pass by Benzema caught out the defence and found Luka Modric, who curled inches over the bar.
Then came the moment that killed Chelsea. Rodrygo stole a yard on Chilwell, racing beyond him. Chilwell was the last man and in desperation reached out and pulled Rodrygo down by the shoulder. A red card was inevitable.
One-nil ahead of the return at Stamford Bridge suddenly looked a good score for Lampard’s side, and the manager responded by sacrificing Felix and sending on Trevor Chalobah into a reinforced back four.
It was a score they could not hold. Vinicius had time in the box to look up and find Asensio, who was afforded equal freedom to guide the ball inside the near post.
Substitute Mason Mount had a chance in added time to halve his side’s deficit but was denied by former Blues defender Antonio Rudiger, leaving Chelsea’s future in the tournament hanging by a thread.