Chelsea did it. Thomas Tuchel did it. Timo Werner did it. Kai Havertz did it. Mason Mount did it. They all did it.
Somehow, from a season that looked to have soured irrevocably, certainly in the short-term, Chelsea have forged a path to a Champions League final. Again.
They did it this way the last time too, in 2012, Roberto Di Matteo taking over mid-season with the club supposedly in disarray, and going on to lift the trophy in Munich.
Mason Mount (right) celebrates after scoring Chelsea’s second goal of the evening to seal their place in the final
Mount (right) finished from close range after meeting Christian Pulisic’s (centre) low cross in the Real Madrid penalty area
Former Chelsea goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois (left) could only watch as Mount’s strike made its way into the net
Mount is congratulated by his Chelsea team-mates after finally adding a second in the closing stages of the game
Tuchel’s campaign is no less remarkable and unexpected. He arrived with a remit to ensure qualification for next season’s competition through league position. Get that fourth placed spot.
Instead, Chelsea may return as holders if they can overcome Manchester City in the second all-English Champions League final in three seasons later this month.
That Werner was pretty much the match-winner just added to the sense of achievement. This has been a hard year for him and a header into an unguarded goal from inside the six-yard box is not going to win goal of the season.
Yet they all count, and ones that set up victory in Champions League semi-finals count best of all. Might this be a turning point for him, the confidence boost he is missing? His effort is undoubted. He is a trier. He never stops. He just needs that cutting edge. Maybe he will find it now. It would certainly save the club a lot of money.
Timo Werner opened the scoring on the night from close range after Kai Havertz’s attempt came back off the crossbar
The Madrid players could only watch as the ball came down for the Chelsea striker to head into an empty net
Werner celebrates after scoring the biggest goal of his Chelsea career midway through the first half of the match
The Chelsea striker’s team-mates look delighted for him after he scored his first open play goal in Europe in nearly two years
Roman Abramovich did it, too, of course. He bought the players that were the architects of this victory – N’Golo Kante, Havertz, Edouard Mendy – and supported the manager last summer as he always does. With investment at least.
Frank Lampard’s departure after less than two seasons still smarts but it is unarguable that Tuchel has done a brilliant job replacing him, and has made Lampard’s squad function at maximum capacity. Players like Antonio Rudiger were going nowhere. That seems unfathomable now.
And while it surely doesn’t do to cast any club bankrolled by Abramovich as David, given Real Madrid’s incredible record in this competition – 13 titles – there was something of the felling of Goliath in this 3-1 aggregate win.
Compared to Madrid, in their way, Chelsea are Leicester. They lose players to the Spanish giants, the way Chelsea pluck the best men from Leicester’s teams.
For Ben Chilwell and Kante, read Thibaut Courtois and Eden Hazard. Chelsea did not want to lose either. Courtois was outstanding. Hazard? Had his name not been on the team-sheet few would have known he was playing. Chelsea don’t get every bit of transfer business right, but selling Hazard high looks smarter by the day.
Chelsea goalkeeper Edouard Mendy dives to tip Karim Benzema’s curling strike from outside of the box wide of the post
Mendy then made another eye-catching save to deny the French striker when he met a cross with a header in the box
Some will argue Madrid are an ageing side, but do not underestimate them. Nobody thought that the night they took Liverpool apart, or kept them at arm’s length in the return at Anfield.
Chelsea have removed two remarkably cussed teams from this competition, given they also eliminated Atletico Madrid. But Real are the scalp. These are old heads, past masters, experienced over course and distance. And Chelsea outplayed them – twice.
Those who were present for Manchester City’s match with Paris Saint-Germain on Tuesday night would have recognised the initial pattern of this game.
A lot of hooting and protest from the visitors, a lot of pressure on the referee, in this case Daniele Orsato of Italy. In the opening six minutes, Kante, Andreas Christensen and Havertz were all guilty of fouls, all of which brought disproportionately noisy reactions.
It was an attempt to establish a narrative that Real Madrid were under attack, but any team that includes Sergio Ramos and Casemiro in its ranks knows how to give as good as it gets. This is a wily, veteran group and Ramos’ leadership embodies it.
Lined up in the corner, awaiting the signal to walk out on cue, the captain gave some last-minute instructions to his team-mates. They were firm, powerful – warrior words. ‘Vamos’ was a key refrain. It was what the Americans call ‘Go time’.
Real Madrid star Eden Hazard failed to make an impact on his return to the stadium where he had so much success
And Real Madrid lived up to that message at first. They dominated the early exchanges, overwhelmed Chelsea with their possession, which often ran at above 70 per cent.
Chelsea are a tough team too under Tuchel, particularly in defence, and proved hard to break down. For all Madrid saw of the ball, their only chances in the first 25 minutes were two long range shots from Toni Kroos and Luka Modric, both of which were easy saves for Mendy. Not that Chelsea fared much better. Rudiger fizzed one from range that Courtois kept out with a fisted save in the continental style.
And then, two minutes that turned the game in Chelsea’s favour. At one end a brilliant save, at the other a fine goal. It was the breakthrough. Save first. Modric had been running the show in midfield as so often happens when Real Madrid are in form and it was his excellent work that brought Karim Benzema into the game for the first time. Set up, he shot swiftly from 18 yards and Mendy reacted well to tip the ball out for a corner. A minute later, Chelsea were ahead.
Madrid captain Sergio Ramos cut a dejected figure after having a night to forget on his return to the team from injury
It was a redemption tale for Werner, having earlier committed the cardinal sin of being caught offside with a mistimed run. Chelsea thought they had taken the lead when Chilwell crossed for Werner’s finish but a flag went up and replays showed the striker had gone a fraction too early. The margins are small, but that’s the point. Goalscorers live and die by them and getting the movement right is crucial to the art.
Next time it was different. Timing was not an issue – and he really could not miss. Kante, brilliant in the first leg and this, made the play with a fabulous driving run laying the ball off sweetly to Havertz.
He tried lobbing the giant Courtois and, to his credit, almost succeeded. The ball bounced back off the crossbar and with Ramos and Courtois taken out of the game by Havertz’s ingenuity, Werner could head the dropping ball into an unguarded net from no more than two yards. He’s finally found his range.
It was Werner’s first Champions League goal from open play since RB Leipzig’s 2-1 win at Benfica on September 17, 2019, a run of 17 barren games. For sheer effort at least, he deserved the break.
Chelsea manager Thomas Tuchel celebrates after securing a place in the Champions League final for the second year in a row
Talking of milestones, in the 37th minute Ramos hurled Cesar Azpilicueta to the ground awaiting a corner and picked up his 38th Champions League booking, an individual record that he extends every season. It followed another fine save from Mendy after a chip by Modric had given Benzema an excellent heading opportunity.
Mason Mount was by now beginning to pull strings for Chelsea and in the 43rd minute he went on a great left sided run that ended in a blocked shot and an attempted volleyed lob from the rebound by Werner, which always looked the height of ambition. Courtois caught it effortlessly.
Yet Chelsea had grown in confidence, buoyed by the goal, buoyed by the first-half clean sheet and at the start of the second-half they should have put this tie away.
Havertz went first, a towering header, rising above Madrid’s defence to leave Courtois utterly beaten but the crossbar resilient. Soon after, Chilwell whipped in a free-kick which Thiago Silva headed over.
Next, Mount, released by Werner and with only Courtois to beat. He went for power but lost accuracy – another chance gone begging. Havertz got clear but was again denied by Courtois before Kante capped 15 minutes of sheer wastefulness by again missing out one on one.
Finally, after 84 minutes, Chelsea finished the job. It followed more excellent work from Kante with substitute Christian Pulisic the coolest head on the pitch. He delayed and delayed his delivery until he could pick out the excellent Mount arriving. Madrid were done, Chelsea in blue heaven.
Tuchel shares a hug with Andreas Christensen as he and his player celebrated the huge result on the pitch
Scroll down to see how it all unfolded with Sportsmail’s live runner…