Thomas Tuchel was incredibly proud of his Chelsea players after their heroic Champions League exit in Madrid but not so pleased with Polish referee Szymon Marciniak at the final whistle.
Chelsea’s reign as European champions came to an agonising end despite beating Real Madrid on a night of high drama at a rocking Bernabeu Stadium.
In a Champions League epic, and arguably the game of the season so far, Mason Mount’s wonderful finish and Antonio Rudiger’s powerful header wiped out Real’s 3-1 first-leg advantage and brought the quarter-final tie level.
Tuchel’s side were outstanding throughout and Timo Werner’s deflected finish put them ahead for the first time on aggregate and within sight of a place in the last four.
But substitute Rodrygo forced extra-time with a volleyed finish before Karim Benzema, hat-trick hero in the first leg at Stamford Bridge six days ago, headed the decisive goal in the 96th minute to send Real through 5-4 on aggregate.
And speaking at his press conference after the game, Chelsea boss Tuchel said: “We were unlucky. That is why we are disappointed. We got beaten by individual quality and conversion. We made two mistakes, two ball losses.
“We deserved to go through after this match today. It was not meant to be.
Mistakes proved costly
“We have to reduce our amount of mistakes and we could not reduce them to a minimum over the two legs. We had two crucial ball losses.
“There are no regrets. These are the kind of defeat you can take with pride as a sportsman.
“The players lived up to the plan in a very different way that we did against Brentford and in the first leg. This is the huge difference.
“We were never shy of making the point that this is the most important: how we live up to a tactic and perform in the structure. This was at the full limit today.
“We were very disciplined on the ball and very active and invested off the ball. We showed courage and from there we showed out quality. This is the right way to do it. If we have this kind of effort, we are a special team.
Tuchel angry with Polish ref
“I was disappointed that the referee had a good time with Carlo [Ancelotti].
“When I wanted to go and say thank you, he was smiling and laughing with the opponent’s coach.
“I think this is the very wrong time to do this after the final whistle, 126 minutes of a team giving their heart.
“When you go and see a referee smiling and laughing with the other coach, it’s bad timing. I told him this.”
Modric praise for Chelsea after Real comeback
Meanwhile, Real Madrid legend Luka Modric was full of praise for Chelsea despite his side fighting back to go through.
He told BT Sport: “Unbelievable to describe this game. We were dead until the goal we scored. Chelsea scored three goals, maybe the first a bit lucky from a deflection. I can’t say we played badly. They used their chances well and scored the goals. We didn’t give up. We kept believing, fighting and in the end showed huge character.
38 goals this season
83 in the #UCL
317 for Real Madrid
Karim Benzema, a footballing marvel ?
— The Athletic UK (@TheAthleticUK) April 12, 2022
“This stadium and the fans were very helpful when we were losing 3-0. They kept supporting us and it gave us a boost to keep believing.
“The manager did great changes. They did well. In this competition experience is playing an important role and I think today it helped us a bit. For me, they are the most difficult team to play against. they are a tough, physical team. We knew it would be tough.
“In the end we showed great character, desire and togetherness to manage to turn it around. A defeat that is very sweet.”