Real Madrid CF had been hoping that the return of captain Sergio Ramos would help lift the team through to the UEFA Champions League final. Alas, the Spaniard's comeback was not enough to get them past Premier League side Chelsea, who completely overpowered them for a 3-1 aggregate victory.

Chelsea welcomed Real Madrid for slaughter at Stamford Bridge on Wednesday evening, coming off a 1-1 draw at the first leg in Spain. Ramos missed the first leg and many other matches since the start of the year as he suffered multiple injuries and also came down with Covid-19. However, he managed to make it on the flight to London, and was a surprise starter despite not having played a single minute of competitive football since mid-March.

Chelsea manager Thomas Tuchel had earlier mentioned that the mere presence of Ramos on the pitch will change the quality of the Real Madrid squad. In a way, he was right. In the first leg, Chelsea dominated possession early in the match and were on attack mode right from the opening whistle. The pace was largely dictated by the Blues in the first leg, but it was an entirely different scenario last night.

It appeared as though Real Madrid found an answer to Chelsea's youth and aggression by keeping the ball in their possession as much as possible and controlling the pace. Ramos held the fort at the back and successfully managed to help his team hold on to the ball for most of the match.

Unfortunately, the improvements ended there. Real Madrid ended up doing an endless tiki-taka that had the ball going around the back 2/3 of the field, but they failed to be effective in the remaining space up front.

They were unable to move forward effectively, and it was Chelsea's Timo Werner who found the back of the net via an early break even as Los Blancos held most of the ball. The goal was disallowed but another breakaway run gave Chelsea the 1-0 lead via a Werner header into an open goal after Kai Havertz hit the bar.

The second goal was pretty much the same, with the Chelsea squad running the ball quickly up the field in a very fast paced play that started with N'golo Kante. It ended with a Mason Mount goal in the 85th minute that also ended Real Madrid's current Champions League campaign.

In the end, Ramos did help the team keep possession a lot more in the second leg, but the back three almost always completely lost it every time Chelsea went on the offensive. They were lucky the scoreline remained modest as the Blues could have scored at least 2-3 more goals if not for the heroics of Thibaut Courtois.

Eden Hazard is also in the process of making a comeback, but just like Ramos, it was not enough to power the team through. He was mostly neutralised and invisible for most of the match. As expected, the elimination has led to a deluge of criticism for Ramos, Hazard as well as Zidane, but the club will now have to focus on the La Liga title race, or risk ending the season with zero silverware.

Timo Werner
Headed in the right direction: Timo Werner ended his goal drought to send Chelsea into the Champions League final Photo: AFP / Glyn KIRK