Karim Benzema is “better every day, like wine,” Real Madrid manager Carlo Ancelotti said after the forward scored another hat trick in a 3-1 Champions League quarterfinal first leg win at Chelsea on Wednesday.
Benzema scored two headers in three first-half minutes at Stamford Bridge, and added a third goal after half-time when he pounced on a mistake by Chelsea goalkeeper Edouard Mendy, to give Madrid the edge going into the second leg at the Bernabeu on April 12.
“He’s better every day, like wine,” Ancelotti — who had only flown to London on matchday after recovering from COVID-19 — said in a post-match news conference. “Every day he shows more leadership, he feels more important for this team and this squad. That’s what makes the difference in him. He has a lot more personality.”
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Benzema, 34, has now scored 11 Champions League goals this season — his best ever tally — after grabbing three goals in back-to-back European games following his hat trick against Paris Saint-Germain in the previous round on March 9.
He is just the second player to score back-to-back hat tricks in Champions League knockout games, following his former Madrid teammate Cristiano Ronaldo in 2017. Only Ronaldo, Lionel Messi and Robert Lewandowski have now scored more than Benzema’s 82 Champions League goals.
“They’re magical nights, like at the Bernabeu against Paris [Saint-Germain],” Benzema said. “Today we went onto the pitch to win and to show what Real Madrid is. We played well from the first minute until the last.”
“I said it before the PSG game, Karim is at a very high level,” goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois — who made a number of saves, including one fingertip second-half stop to deny Cesar Azpilicueta — said. “With him we score goals. The two headers were very difficult and he scored them.”
Chelsea coach Thomas Tuchel responded with a blunt “no” when asked if the tie was still alive in his post-match news conference, but Ancelotti was keen to adopt a more cautious tone.
“Chelsea didn’t show their best version tonight,” the Italian said. “Football changes fast, the tie isn’t over… We have an advantage, that’s evident, but the tie is open. There’s no away goals rule, that gives an advantage to Chelsea. There’s another game where anything can happen.”