Christian Pulisic raced behind Raphael Varane to meet Antonio Rudiger’s defense-opening pass, turned toward goal and saw… nothing.
Varane had headed to the goal line, Eder Militao was tracking back at quarter-speed, and Courtois had just started his charge toward the American.
Seconds later, it was 1-0 Chelsea over Real Madrid in the first leg of the UEFA Champions League semifinal en route to a 1-1 draw between the Blues and their Spanish hosts at the Estadio Alfredo Di Stefano.
Pulisic was asked where the defenders were?
“That’s almost how I felt,” Pulisic said. “When I turned I didn’t expect to be so free.”
The USMNT star’s fifth Champions League goal is the first for an American in a UCL semifinal, but he’s neither giving himself too much credit nor counting Chelsea’s place in the final.
“The control could’ve been even better but I kinda turned and noticed I was 1v1 with the keeper,” Pulisic said. “I took my time with it. Nice goal. … It’s a proud moment but the job’s nowhere near done.
The goal came moments after Pulisic could’ve had an assist, only to see Thibaut Courtois get a leg to Timo Werner’s snapped shot.
“We were disappointed obviously,” Pulisic said. We need to be a bit more clinical in front of goal and we could’ve put the game away a bit earlier. … It’s a good result. We’re going to take it. We’ll be prepared for next week. We’re not disappointed at all. We’re a positive bunch of guys.”
Chelsea captain Cesar Azpilicueta heaped praise on his American teammate.
🇺🇸 Cesar Azpilicueta on #USMNT’s Christian Pulisic & his goal v Real Madrid: “It was great composure. When he’s on the ball he makes good runs and he is an amazing player and he is a young player. He is growing and improving. He is a very important player for the team.” #CFC #UCL
— Joe Prince-Wright (@JPW_NBCSports) April 27, 2021