Chelsea, Real Madrid play to draw in Champions League semifinal 1st leg

Real Madrid and Chelsea drew 1-1 in the first leg of the Champions League semifinals on Tuesday, with Christian Pulisic becoming the first American international to score in the tournament’s last four.

Karim Benzema equalized for Madrid on a rainy night at the Alfredo Di Stefano Stadium in the first Champions League match since the controversial Super League folded last week amid widespread criticism.

The largely closed breakaway competition would have had Real Madrid as one of its leaders, and Chelsea also was among its founding members before being one of the first to give up on the idea along with the other English clubs. Madrid didn’t officially back out of the Super League but had downplayed the possibility of retaliation by UEFA in its Champions League matches. There were no refereeing controversies in Tuesday’s match.

Chelsea got off to a fast start and had chances to add to its lead after Pulisic opened the scoring with a nice finish in the 14th minute. Madrid evened the match on Benzema’s volley from inside the area in the 29th, and there were few significant chances either way during the rest of the game.

The second leg is on May 5 in London. Manchester City hosts Paris Saint-Germain in the other semifinal on Wednesday.

Chelsea gave little space to Madrid and was the more dangerous team early on at the Di Stefano in Madrid’s training complex.

Not long before Pulisic’s opener, Timo Werner had his strike from in front of the goal stopped by a superb reflex save by Madrid goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois, a former Chelsea player.

Pulisic didn’t miss his scoring chance after controlling a high pass by Antonio Rudiger inside the area. He calmly got past Courtois before hitting the net past the Madrid defenders trying to block his shot at the goal line.

With the goal, Pulisic surpassed DaMarcus Beasley to become the top American scorer in Champions League history with five goals. He is the second American international to play in a Champions League semifinal after Beasley for PSV Eindhoven in a first-leg game against AC Milan in 2005. Pulisic has been thriving recently after being marred by injuries early in the season.

Madrid struggled defensively with its setup of three central defenders, but Benzema nearly equalized with a shot that clipped the post in the 23rd and then found the net with a nice finish from inside the area. The French striker controlled a loose ball with his head before turning and firing a volley into the top of the net for his 13th goal in his last 14 matches. It was Benzema’s 16th goal in his last 17 home games with Madrid.

Former Chelsea forward Eden Hazard, coming off a long injury layoff, entered the match in the second half but couldn’t find spaces to spark Madrid to victory.

Madrid, making a record 14th semifinal appearance, won three straight Champions League titles from 2016-18, before Cristiano Ronaldo left, but the 13-time champion was eliminated in the round of 16 in the last two editions.

Chelsea won the European title in 2012 and returned to the semifinals two years later, but hadn’t been back to the last four since. Coach Thomas Tuchel is trying to make it to a second consecutive final after a runner-up finish with Paris Saint-Germain last season. Chelsea has only two losses since the German coach took over in January.