Christian Pulisic could’ve had at least one assist by the time he took matters into his feet in the UEFA Champions League semifinal first leg against Real Madrid on Tuesday.
Pulisic was at the heart of everything Chelsea was doing early at the Estadio Alfredo Di Stefano, and he put the Blues up 1-0 within a quarter-hour of kickoff.
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Moments after Pulisic’s cross-box header to Timo Werner was denied by ex-Chelsea man Thibaut Courtois, the American took advantage of the goalkeeper when given acres of space in the Madrid box.
Antonio Rudiger looped a pass over the Madrid defense, and Raphael Varane had no idea that Pulisic had zipped behind him.
The USMNT star was calm with the ball as only Courtois came near him, touching around the keeper before smashing a shot off Varane’s shoulder and into the goal.
Pulisic’s fifth Champions League goal is easily his most important and gives him two for the Blues this season and three in his Chelsea career.
IT HAD TO BE HIM. CHRISTIAN PULISIC 🇺🇸 pic.twitter.com/yfXK3v9H6E
— Champions League on CBS Sports (@UCLonCBSSports) April 27, 2021
7th minute: There have been some quick touches and tidy passes as Pulisic and Chelsea have held onto early possession but the chess feel of a late stage first leg is apparent.
9th minute: There’s an assi— oh no! Ex-Chelsea man Thibaut Courtois makes a terrific leg save on Timo Werner after Pulisic heads a deflected ball into a very xG place for his German center forward.
12th minute: A big part of the combination play as Chelsea brings the ball from right to left before Ben Chilwell’s cross goes out for a corner.
15th minute: He’s got their attention now — Pulisic scythed down by Nacho Fernandez at midfield.
22nd minute: The American leads a rush but a combination of miscommunication with Werner and a slightly-too-hard pass find the ball out of bounds for a goal kick.
25th minute: He’s got the ball off an incisive square pass and cut a ball back toward the top of the box but Chilwell mishits his drive through traffic and it’s wide for a goal kick.
41st minute: A quiet spell after Real equalizes, Pulisic is in the center of a three-wide rush and has the ball but Werner moves toward him instead of stretching the defense and seems confused when Pulisic plays the obvious ball. Werner smashes wide.
66th minute: A cagey if quieter start to the second half sees Pulisic subbed off with Werner, as Kai Havertz and Hakim Ziyech enter the fray.
FT statistics: 54 touches, 25-of-28 passes completed, three key passes, 54 touches, 13-of-19 duels won, six fouls drawn, two tackles, goal.